The vast, unending world of Saul Leiter’s oeuvre unfolds itself at Arles, in an exhibition that is both intimate and expansive, compelling and enigmatic. This show brings to light a highly textured corpus of work where the boundaries between photography, drawing, and painting are blurred. It marks a watershed moment, not only in the exploration of Leiter’s artistic output but also in our understanding of photographic art as a whole.
Saul Leiter, the ambidextrous artist, thrived in the silence of his studio as much as he did in the cacophony of New York City’s streets. His art is a testament to his ceaseless exploration of the medium, capturing the city’s endless rhythm for over six decades. Akin to a visual symphony, the exhibition manifests Leiter’s ability to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.
The artist’s black and white photography is a study in chiaroscuro, with varying intensities of black that shimmer on the surface. Occasionally, this monochromatic narrative is punctuated by a burst of hyper-saturated color, a testament to Leiter’s ability to discern and articulate visual surprises in the urban landscape.
Leiter’s works possess an innate sense of balance, exactitude, and humility. His subjects are captured in their purest essence, often revealing more in their concealment. These images are imbued with a sense of the sublime, where everyday objects and scenes are transformed into enigmatic moments, inviting viewers to engage in a dialogue with the unseen and the overlooked.
The exhibition’s curatorial brilliance lies in the seamless convergence of Leiter’s photographs, drawings, and paintings. Most of these works have never been published before, offering a fresh perspective into the artist’s perception of the world. The interplay of different artistic languages rub against each other, speaking to us, telling us stories, and unraveling enigmas that these fragments of an unfinished world contain.
The show is a celebration of imperfection, in line with Leiter’s belief in the importance of flaws. It takes us on a journey through time, showing us that despite the darkness that may prevail in the world, these fragments of art endure, intact, and continue to resonate with audiences, both visually and emotionally.
“Fragments of an Unfinished World” offers a much-needed exploration into Saul Leiter’s artistic universe. It is a show that requires, and indeed rewards, just a little more attention. As one delves deeper, the images transform from mere fragments to grand narratives, each holding a mirror to Leiter’s vision of the world, making it one of the most important exhibitions of the year.