The Private and Precious Eye of Vivian Maier at KP Projects
By Evan Senn
on view through August 26th
Not everyone feels the need to share their artistic passion with the public world. For ages, some artists simply want to create; for creation’s sake–a compelling drive in their bones that beckons them to capture and express their specifically perfect moments, feelings or thoughts in artistic expression. It is a fairly new concept in our society to broadcast one’s visual musings to the world. As strange as it may seem to those in the deep waters of the Los Angeles art scene, making art is still the important part of being an artist. Vivian Maier is the epitome of the notion that artists are driven to create art, and don’t necessarily feel the need to be famous for it or make money from it.
Maier is the purest understanding of an artist. When she was alive, she saw special little moments and compositions in the world around her, and she felt compelled to capture them, as her art. In her latest exhibition, eight years after her death, at KP Projects on La Brea, we are able to see an enormous collection of snapshots of her life and her adventures. Maier spent four decades as a nanny on Chicago’s North Shore, obsessively documenting the people, places and things around her through bold black-and-white photographs throughout her journeys through Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
The images on display at KP Projects are from the Maloof Collection, a collecttion run by a Chicago art collector named John Maloof who purchased the largest collection of Maier’s photos at auction after her death in 2009. In addition to more than 100,000 negatives, the collection also owns audio-tapes, home movies and various other items from Maier, representing nearly 90% of Maier’s work. “Vivian Maier: Photographs from the Maloof Collection” showcases a selection of 74 modern gelatin silver prints, including twenty new, never before seen images, modern color prints, and gelatin silver contact sheets. The exhibition also showcases an exclusive selection of personal ephemera including cameras and personal belongings of the artist for viewing on the second floor of the gallery at Launch LA.
Maier was described as an intensely private person who kept most of her work hidden under lock and key. No one, not even the children she nannied for the majority of her life knew she was such a dedicated photographer. Maier was fascinated by the mundane, the evolving urban landscape, interesting bits of Americana, the destruction or conservation of history and development, and the unseen lives of different people. Her uncanny eye for detail and composition was astute and always on the lookout. Since the 2014 documentary, Finding Vivian Maier, she has since been widely regarded as one of the best street photographers of the 20th century.
The exhibition at KP Projects infuses the essential Vivian Maier energy and intention, with the generous help from the Maloof Collection, and mixes it with the contemporary elegance a retrospective exhibit should have. Somber and whimsical at the same time, the large space is overrun with energy emanating from Maier’s photos on the walls. The majority of the photographs printed small-to-medium scale, as Maier would have have them printed, and framed all the same, letting the viewers stumble upon their own favorite photograph without the curator’s leading eye forcing them to choose. Walking through the space, you can’t help but feel inspired and saddened simultaneously. As I walked around through this adventureland of lively snapshots, I couldn’t help but feel as though my world was a little dimmer now knowing what I had been missing–I wanted to know Ms. Maier, coax her into larger art projects, more adventurous works, and have a cup of coffee with her, picking her brain for the beauty she found, that I so desperately want to see, especially in a terrifying and serious world like today.
Vivian was a free spirit and followed her curiosities and eccentricities wherever they led her. She was proud, independent and caring. She did not have an easy life, and she was drawn to others who struggled as well, as evidenced by her photographs. John Maloof has taken great care in keeping her legacy pure and true, and has amassed great research into her life, her love and her talent as a street photographer. The beauty in her artist’s eye is unique and hypnotic. Through her lens, we can see she was fiercely interested in the human experience, and saw precious and personal moments experienced by all different types of humans as valuable and worthwhile. In her ability to see and find these moments, which so many ignore, she captured them like treasures, keeping them safe and beautiful forever, in frame.
“Vivian Maier: Photographs from the Maloof Collection” at KP Projects is on view until August 26, 2017. 170 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036. http://www.kpprojects.net.