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Press release George S. Zimbel: "E N E R GY"
Exhibition, April, 9 - May, 31, 2008
By Natasha Christia
© George ZIMBEL
KOWASA gallery presents a retrospective show dedicated to the American-Canadian documentary photographer George S. ZIMBEL. Zimbel is a key figure of the last generation of authors faithful to the legacy of Photo-League, who in the fifties imbued their pictures with their personal commitment towards the people and the social landscapes they documented. The show offers the unique opportunity of discovering the work of an author who captured with his camera the energy and the spirit of the "era of innocence" before its imminent end with the Vietnam War.
New York and New Orleans alongside portraits of emblematic celebrities such as John Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and Leonard Bernstein... More than sixty B/W photographs, all printed by Zimbel, offer a thorough insight to the various periods of his extensive trajectory that covers more than half a century, from the early fifties to our days.
Born in Woburn, Massachusetts in 1929, George S. Zimbel made his first steps into photography when still in his early teens. At the age of fourteen he bought his first professional camera and took up assignments for a local newspaper. During his studies at Columbia University in New York City, Zimbel was appointed both photographer and editor in the university newspaper. He even published an image in LIFE magazine. In 1949, Zimbel became a stringer for both the PIX Agency and Newsweek and studied the darkroom with John Ebstel in the Photo-League. He also formed the "Midnight to Dawn Club" with his close friend Garry Winogrand. The two young men would spend the whole night in the university darkroom. In the morning Winogrand would go back home to the Bronx to get some rest, while Zimbel would go directly to class.
After graduation, Zimbel attended on scholarship Alexey Brodovitch's Workshop in New York. In 1951, he presented his portfolio to Edward Steichen, the then director of the photography department in the MoMA. Steichen's assistant, Grace Mayer, introduced him to many photographers and urged him to study the photographic collection of the museum. During his military service in 1951-1953, Zimbel took pictures of various cities in Germany, France, Italy and England. In 1953 he came back to New York to embark on his career as a freelance photographer, realizing photographic essays for various magazines and publications, such as The New York Times, Look, Pageant, Saturday Review and Architectural Forum.
His snapshots of that era of the streets, the neighborhoods, the children of NY and the nightclubs of the legendary Bourbon Street in New Orleans demonstrate the simplicity, the elegance and the charm of a daily life which no longer exists. With a precision and a sensibility, which goes much further than a sensationalist attitude or a cold gaze, Zimbel documented some of the most emblematic moments of American history. He also portrayed personalities such as Leonard Bernstein, Hellen Keller, Mickey Rooney and Jean Seberg, alongside the Presidents Harry S. Truman (in the famous series "A President in Retirement"), John and Jacqueline Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon. Zimbel also became one of the photographers who took pictures of Marilyn Monroe in the mythical session "The Seven Year Itch" in 1954.
Faithful to his mission as an observer, Zimbel believes in non-intervention. Guided by a conscious determination, his images offer a completely subjective interpretation based on the respect towards his subjects, the critical observation and the spontaneous action. However, the poetic flair emerging from his images has to do more with his own sensibility, which always helps him achieve a balance between the chance and the ambiguity of life, rather than his labor as a visual historian and researcher. This very same sensibility combined with his extraordinary social awareness orientated him towards photographic projects related to the fields of architecture and education, away from the established commercial paths. In the years to come, his commitment towards his personal values would become even firmer. In 1971 Zimbel decided to emigrate with his family from the States to Canada, expressing in this way his opposition to the War of Vietnam and to the climate of political tension the country was undergoing. In 1977 he obtained the Canadian nationality.
Zimbel had his first major exhibition in 1976 at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery-Museum in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Since the eighties, when he took up full-time freelance work in Montreal, his work started to appear in various shows: in The Photographer's Gallery (London, 1992), in MoMA (New York, 1994), in the Stephen Bulger Gallery (Toronto, 1999-2002), in Columbia University (2001), in the Canadian Embassy of Tokyo and in the Brooklyn Museum (2005). In 2000, the IVAM Centre Julio Gonzalez in Spain organized his largest monographic exhibition. Apart from being part of many private collections, Zimbel's work can also be found in collections of big institutions, such as The National Gallery of Canada, The Museum of Modern Art and The International Center of Photography in New York, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, the Musée National des Beaux Arts du Québec, the Musée d´art contemporain de Montreal and the Brooklyn Museum. Two books have been published on the photographer: George S. ZIMBEL. IVAM Centre Julio Gonzalez, 2000 (exhibition catalogue with photographs and poems by Zimbel) and ZIMBEL, George S, Bourbon Street. New Orleans 1955. Les Éditions du Passage, Québec, 2006. In 2005, Zimbel was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
George S. Zimbel still remains active. He always opts for assignments and subjects that interest him most and do not interfere with his ideology and he spends a great part of his time in his darkroom printing negatives of his archive.
2008 Leica Gallery, New York
2006 Salon B, Montreal "Bourbon St. 1955"
2006 John Cleary Gallery, Houston "Marilyn Monroe"
2005 Therese Dion Gallery, Montreal "Les Femmes"
2005 Galeons Lap Gallery, Salt Spring Island, B.C.
2005 Canadian Embassy, Tokyo: "Mostly Canadian"
2005 Owens Art Gallery, Mount Alison Univ. "Before during and After"
2004 Confederation Centre Art Gallery & Museum :"Before, During & After"
2004 Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto: "George S. Zimbel, Photographs"
2001 Columbia University, New York: "Photographs 1947-2000"
2001 A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans: "George S. Zimbel, Photographs"
2000 Institut Valencia d'Art Modern, Valencia, Spain: "George S. Zimbel, a Retrospective"
2000 Sala Millares Ministerio de Educacion, Cultura y Deporte, Madrid, Spain: "George S. Zimbel, a Retrospective"
2000 John Cleary Gallery, Houston : "Documents"
1999 Stephen Bulger Gallery & Wallace Avenue Studios, Toronto, "Archeology"
1997 Brock University, St. Catherines, Ontario, "Still Movies"
1995 Stuart Baum Inc., Chicago: "George S. Zimbel"
1995 Bibliotheque Cte St. Luc, Montreal, "Still Movies"
1992 The Photographers Gallery, London, England, "George S. Zimbel"
1992 Galerie Image des Photographies, Montreal, "Retrospective"
1992 MOMA New York, Curatorial review of "Retrospective"
1991 Jane Corkin Gallery, Toronto, "George S. Zimbel"
1989 The Studios, Toronto, "Singles & Series 195's-1980s"
1989 Galerie Art 45, Montreal, "Singles & Series 1950s -1980s"
1986 Galerie Art 45, Montreal, "European Photographs 1952/1953"
1984 Galerie Art 45, Montreal, "Photographies de New York"
1982 Galerie Art 45, Montreal, "Marilyn Monroe, New York 1954"
1976 Confederation Centre of the Arts Gallery & Museum, Charlottetown, "Retrospective"
1961 U.S. Navy Medical Dept. Bethesda, Md., "Chemical Pacemaker Research" (Photographs, Text & Design)
1959 U.S.I.A., Washington, D.C., "African & Arab Foreign Students in the U.S." (John Peter Q Design)
1959 U.S.I.A., Washington, D.C., "Peaceful Uses of Atomic energy" (George Nelson Design)
1958 U.S.I.A., Washington, D.C., "The County Agent" (John Peter Design)
2007 Musee dart modern de San Paulo, The IVAM Collection
2007 Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Showa-Photography 1945-1989
2007 Betes et Hommes, Parc de la Villette, Paris
2007 LEternel Feminin, Kowasa Gallery, Barcelona
2007 Streetwork, Kowasa Gallery Barcelona
2007 Higher Pictures, New York City
2007 Christies NYC
2006 Confederation Centre Art Gallery & Museum: In/Flux: Migrating Culture and Cultural Modernisation in Prince Edward Island, 1969-1980
2006 Staley-Wise Gallery, New York "Marilyn Monroe: Still Life"
2005 Tepper Takayama Gallery, Boston "C'est L'Amour"
2005 I wanna be loved by you - Brooklyn Museum
2004 Monroe Gallery of Photography, Santa Fe, NM, "Icons"
2004 Tepper Takayama Gallery, Boston "Poli Sci"
2004 Alt-6 "Montreal Art Fair "Singles & Series", Montreal
2004 Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Loan Collection, Marilyn Monroe
2003 Photographers without Borders, New York
2003 Muse de Mont St. Hilaire, Qubec, "Night Photographs"
2002 MOMA, New York, "In the City"
2002 Tepper Takayama Fine Arts, Boston, "Icons"
2002 Schmidt Bingham Gallery, New York
2002 Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, "Small is Beautiful"
2000 Shapiro Gallery, San Francisco, "Gallery Artists"
2001 Thrse Dion Gallery, Montreal, "Gallery Artists"
2001 Lilian Rodriguez Gallery, Montreal, "Paysage"
2001 Michael Gibson Gallery, London, On.
1999 Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York, "The Sixties"
1999 Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto, "Laundry"
1999 CMCP,Ottawa, " Exchanging Views, Quebec 1939-1970"
1998 Galerie Mistral, Montreal, "New York Photographs"
1998 Soho Triad Gallery, New York, "New York Photographs"
1998 Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York, "Flashback - The Fifties"
1998 Sarah Morthland Gallery, New York, " Scene from Behind"
1998 Galerie Uterman, Dortmund, Germany, "50 from the 50's"
1997 Vernissage, Uxbridge, On, "Biblioteca"
1997 Art Club of Washington, D.C, "Creatures"
1997 Stuart B. Baum Inc, Chicago, "Art Chicago"
1997 John Cleary Gallery & Stuart B., Baum Inc, AIPAD Exhibition, New York
1997 Musée des Beaux Arts, Montreal, "Loan collection"
1997 Mois de la Photo, Montreal
1996 Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, "New Acquisitions"
1996 Galerie Clic, Montreal, "The Intimate View"
1996 Ricco Maresca Gallery, New York, "Delirium"
1995 A Gallery of Fine Photography, New Orleans, Marilyn Monroe 1954
1994 MOMA, New York, "American Politicians"
1993 Jane Corkin Gallery, Toronto, "Baseball"
1993 Centre Strathern, Montreal, "L'Amerique regard l"Europe"
1990 Winnipeg Art Gallery, "Recording Angels -150 years"
1988 G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Los Angeles, "Marilyn Monroe"
1981 National Film Board Gallery, Ottawa "Photojournalism"
1981 National Artists Alliance, Washington, D.C. "Humor"
1977 UNICEF, "Children of This World"
1954 White House Conference & Exhibition, "Children & Youth"
1950s National Conference of Christians and Jews annual exhibitions
2005 Inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Art
2002 Roloff Beny Book Awards, Shortlist
2001 CAPIC Lifetime Achievement Award
1994 Life member of American Society of Media Photographers
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Musée National des beaux-arts du Québec, Québec
Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, Montreal
Confederation Centre Art Gallery & Museum, Charlottetown
Nova Scotia Museum of Art
The Owens Art Gallery, New Brunswick
Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa
Canada Council Art Bank, Ottawa
McGill University Rare Book & Prints Collection, Montreal
Museum of Modern Art, New York
The Brooklyn Museum
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
International Center of Photography, New York
Institut Valencia d'Art Modern, Valencia, Spain
Musée National d'Histoire d'art de Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Library of Congress, Washington D.C.
Harry S. Truman Library, Independence, Missouri
University of Florida Collection, Gainesville, Florida
Air Canada Collection, Toronto
Bibliotheque Elka London, Cte St. Luc, Québec
Claridge Collection, Montreal
Steinberg Collection, Montreal
A.G. Edwards Collection, St. Louis, Missouri
Readers Digest Collection, Pleasantville, N.Y.
Camera Works, New York
Pharmascience Collection, Montreal