PDN Photo of the Day

A World Saturated by Harry Gruyaert

Well known in Europe for his street photography, Paris-based photographer Harry Gruyaert will have his first U.S. solo exhibition at Howard Greenberg Gallery starting January 23. Gruyaert, a member of Magnum Photos since 1982, has long been applauded for his exceptional use of color. 

As Gruyaert’s American contemporaries Joel Meyerowitz, Stephen Shore, William Eggleston and Saul Leiter created groundbreaking studies in color while mostly staying close to home, Gruyaert (Belgian, b. 1941) traveled the world. The exhibition covers his work in France, Spain, Belgium, Morocco, Japan, India, Russia and the U.S. Titled “Saved by Color,” a reference to Gruyaert’s breach from his repressed, traditional Catholic Flemish family after discovering the lights and color of Europe, the show spans four decades, from 1981 through 2017. The photographs consistently confirm Gruyaert’s eye for peculiar juxtapositions that divulge “bewildering beauty, complex constructions and touching solitude…all punctuated with his unique, saturated approach to color,” writes Howard Greenberg Gallery in the press release. 

A pioneer in European color photography, Gruyaert said recently, “I am interested in that strange magic that occurs when things come together. I look to form a connection to a place. I have to be moved by something.”

With Gruyaert behind the camera, a classic car parked behind a flowering bush is a beckoning mystery, a suburban thriller. Basic fruit and a dodgy hot dog at a Paris cafe become a small roadside masterpiece. Captured from a bird’s-eye view, a street corner in Tokyo is rendered a strikingly graphic image, each colorful umbrella and car placed perfectly within the black and white stripes of the crosswalks. Faces are rarely seen, they are more often obscured by a bright red balloon, shadowed by a visor, or viewed from behind. In a flawlessly exposed image from Mali, a stripe of sun washes across a green room highlighting an empty red chair; a curtain billows and villagers are seen in the distance, walking across the rich brown earth.

Though full of activity, Gruyaert’s images evoke the “loneliness of modern life or simply the serene banality of the quotidian,” writes Howard Greenberg.

“Saved by Color”
By Harry Gruyaert
Howard Greenberg Gallery
January 23 – March 14, 2020

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