Monday, July 25, 2011

Exhibition: Photographs of Chaim Gross Sculpture

Sculptor Chaim Gross at work on Harvest at 1939 New York World's Fair. Photo by Eliot Elisofon, courtesy of Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation

Exhibition: Photographs of Chaim Gross Sculpture

The current exhibit of photographs of the sculptural work of Chaim Gross (1904-1991), “Displayed: Stages for Sculpture,” is on view until December 16 at the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation in New York. Gross practiced what he (and contemporaries) called “direct carving” and created totemic human figures out of wood and stone. According to the exhibit organizers he "was a perfect subject for photographers who wanted to capture his creative process." Sculpture, as one of the most active, physical and, of-course, 3-dimensional forms of art, and one that could be represented well in black and white with light and shadow, appealed to photographers and was frequently featured in the many photo and news magazines of the early 20th-century.

According to the Foundation's press release:
"The photographs chart the “stages” in the making of sculpture, and public “stages” displaying Gross’s work, such as the 1939 World’s Fair, educational carving demonstrations, and commercial print media. The exhibition, curated by the Foundation's archivist Zak Vreeland, features images from the Foundation’s collection by renowned photographers Arnold Newman (1918-2006), Eliot Elisofon (1911-73), and Rudy Burckhardt (1914-99). It also includes works by less known, yet equally compelling photographers Robert M. Damora (1912-2009), Soichi Sunami (1885-1971), Walter Rosenblum (1919-2006), and Arnold Eagle (1909-92).

Chaim Gross knew many of these photographers at the beginning of their careers and became particularly close with Arnold Newman and Eliot Elisofon. Gross hired them to record the process of sculpting, both in the privacy of the studio as well as various public venues. The photographers also featured Gross, his house, studio, and sculpture in news stories, fashion spreads, and advertisements in publications such as Life and Glamour. The exhibition explores this relationship between sculpture and photography. It also considers the convergence of two modes of production: Gross’s signature process of hand carving and the mechanical reproduction of the photograph. Of particular interest are photographs of window displays that featured Gross’s sculpture in arrangements with mannequins and merchandise from c. 1940-50 at Bonwit Teller, Saks Fifth Avenue and Lane Bryant. These include an eight-window display for Bonwit Teller designed by the preeminent window designer Gene Moore (1910-98)."
Read more:

View the 1957 film The Sculptor Speaks (17 minutes) on the Gross foundation website.

Read more about the life and work of Chaim Gross at

As it happens, the Syracuse University Special Collection Research Center has four boxes of
Gross papers. I'm looking forward to finding time in the next year to examine these, or to interest a student in the project.

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