Max Kozloff: New York Means Business

Max Kozloff

DLK Collection


Max Kozloff is probably best known as a wide-ranging art historian, an exacting art critic, and a former editor of Artforum. That Kozloff is also a talented photographer in his own right was news to me, and this small show of his early work certainly helped to place his artistic output into the larger framework of 1970s color photography.

Kozloff’s faded images of tired New York storefronts and window displays fall into a long subject matter tradition, reaching back to Atget and Abbott, and on to the crackling compositional experiments of Friedlander. While a few of Kozloff’s storefronts follow in the traditional mode, providing elements of the surrounding architecture as context, most of his images have cropped out the framing, centering on the view through the glass itself and into the careful arrangements on display. His works feature the random marginalia of commerce: columns of twine, dusty curtains in various colors, a dense array of gold watches, triangular towers of fabric, and a parade of wigs. Other images add a layer or two of visual complexity, using mirrors to capture multiple angles, sunglasses to capture fleeting self-portraits, and reflections from the street to tell more dense and complicated stories. Placed in the context of the color experimentation going on in the 1970s, Kosloff’s images show the beginnings of employing color as a primary and featured compositional tool.
While I’m not sure I can detect a refined and original voice in these pictures, it is clear that Kozloff was working through the same visual challenges that were confronting photographers like Levitt and Callahan, trying to bridge from an accepted black and white methodology into an entirely different mode of visual thinking. Color for color’s sake was becoming the new norm, and I see this body of work as yet another well-crafted example of a transitional effort to span the two sets of adjacent but competing aesthetic ideas.


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