Artist and educator Aaron Siskind (1903-1991)holds a preeminent place in the history of American photography. He was the only photographic member of the American Abstract-Expressionist movement, drawing inspiration and inspiring notable modern painters such as Willem DeKooning Barnett Newman and Franz Kline. During the 1930s, Siskind was interested in documenting the pressing social conditions of his time. It was not until after an exploration of the external world had been exhausted, that he began using the outside world as a means of internal self-exploration –harnessing the associative powers of his vernacular objects. Siskind focused on the formal relationship between light, structure and texture, exploring ideas of decay and regeneration. His practice was an overtly straightforward technique of isolating and enlarging everyday subject matter, creating conceptual metaphors with new purpose and meaning. The artist ultimately radicalized the medium by pinpointing photography’s potential as an abstract form of expression and an aesthetic end in itself.


Aaron Siskind was born in New York in 1903. He taught high school English for over two decades before began his photography career as a documentarian in the New York Photo League. In 1951, Siskind went on to teach at the Institute of Design in Chicago and later on the Rhode Island School of Design. He was also involved in the founding of the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester with Nathan Lyons. He died in Providence in 1991 at the age of 87. The artist received many distinguished awards including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Gold Star Merit Award from Philadelphia College of Art, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and Rhode Island’s Governer Prize for the Arts. Bruce Silverstein has organized three major shows of his work since 2001, and is the exclusive representative of the Aaron Siskind Foundation, which maintains Siskind’s legacy by providing annual grants encouraging and celebrating artistic achievement in contemporary photography.


Between 1947 and 1951, Siskind exhibited regularly at the prestigious Charles Egan Gallery alongside many well-known painters of the period. Numerous posthumous exhibitions have been organized worldwide. Such institutions are amongst others, the Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.; Cleveland Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Whitney Museum of Art, New York; and the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson.


Work by Aaron Siskind is held in museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Center for Creative Photography, Tucson; Getty Center, Los Angeles; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.


Siskind published several important books and catalogues, and seven major monographs such as Places: Aaron Siskind Photographs (1976), Harlem Document, Photographs 1932-1940: Aaron Siskind (1981), Aaron Siskind: Pleasures and Terrors (1982), and Song of The Open Road (1990).

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