Signs & Symbols

Solo en Inglès

This audio guide highlights selected works from the exhibition Signs & Symbols, focusing on the development of American abstraction after World War II.

Aaron Siskind

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Narrator: Aaron Siskind is best known for tightly focused photographic compositions. He honed in close on things like peeling paint, torn posters on city walls, wood grains, and patches of tar on asphalt roads. He used a large-format camera that captured detail beautifully—but his images are less “realistic” depictions of the world than they are found abstractions. He’s often called an Abstract Expressionist photographer, and his pictures have been compared to paintings by Willem de Kooning. They’re not totally abstract, though. The sources of the images are usually recognizable. A ripped advertisement on a brick wall will have an urban feel, while a close-up of a lava flow will have a natural one. But these associations become a kind of background—the real emphasis is on texture, line, and visual rhythm.

A print of white scratches on a black surface.

Narrator: Aaron Siskind is best known for tightly focused photographic compositions. He honed in close on things like peeling paint, torn posters on city walls, wood grains, and patches of tar on asphalt roads. He used a large-format camera that captured detail beautifully—but his images are less “realistic” depictions of the world than they are found abstractions. He’s often called an Abstract Expressionist photographer, and his pictures have been compared to paintings by Willem de Kooning. They’re not totally abstract, though. The sources of the images are usually recognizable. A ripped advertisement on a brick wall will have an urban feel, while a close-up of a lava flow will have a natural one. But these associations become a kind of background—the real emphasis is on texture, line, and visual rhythm.


Aaron Siskind, Untitled, 1949. Gelatin silver print, Sheet and Image: 13 3/8 x 10 3/8in. (34 x 26.4cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Alice and Leo Yamin 92.50. Photograph by Robert Gerhardt