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Documentary / Anti-Graphic: A Surrealist Eye on Photographs

July 29, 2023–January 17, 2024

This exhibition explores a pair of terms devised by the pioneering art dealer and dedicated surrealist Julien Levy (American, 1906-1981), who championed photography as an art form from the 1930s onward. Levy exhibited the leading photographers of his era, but he also reveled in popular visual culture, embracing everything from outdated news photos to advertising imagery and Hollywood movies, and he loved artistic photographs that veered close to such forms. Wanting to show the full range of photographs that interested him and wishing to justify their presence in his gallery, he adopted the terms documentary and anti-graphic to account for competing impulses within the medium.

Levy insisted that surrealism is not a movement or style but a point of view. He treated it as an always-relevant mode of engaging with the world. In that spirit, this installation begins with artists and works that he collected and exhibited, then moves forward in time to consider a range of photographs made up to the present. This installation invites viewers to value the meanings they find in these pictures and decide for themselves whether a work is documentary, anti-graphic, or a combination of the two.

Main Building


Peter Barberie, The Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center

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