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Review: Michael Kenna at Robert Mann Gallery

Posted By Administration, Thursday, March 13, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014
DATE: March 13, 2008

In this recent body of work, photographer Michael Kenna takes on New York City at its most remote and dazzling. These black-and-white toned silver prints present an almost otherworldly metropolis, emptied of humans and therefore of some its more unsavory aspects.

Michael Kenna, Fifth Avenue, New York, 2006
Courtesy Robert Mann Gallery
Many of the well-known landmarks were hereā€”the Chrysler Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, and the skyline, seen as a spiky strip framed by luminous sweeps of sky and water. Kenna is not afraid to go for high drama: the top of the Chrysler Building thrusts into a turbulent sky; an aerial view of Fifth Avenue at night is a dizzying amalgam of brilliant illumination and severe geometries. Nor does Kenna have any reservations about jousting with imagery made famous by his illustrious forebears.
Michael Kenna, Manhattan Skyline, New York, NY, USA, 2006
Courtesy Robert Mann Gallery
Homage to Kertész, Gramercy Park, New York (2003) recalls the snowy vistas captured by André Kertész in the 1950s. Shots of the Flatiron Building inevitably summon up Edaward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz. But Kenna makes the city his own by sticking to a fiercely unsentimental vision of its familiar monuments and formal majesty. Grand Central Station never looked lonelier or more elegantly austere than in the two images here of the ticket counters and a stairwell after hours.

Also in the show were images of Japan, Oregon and Mont-Saint-Michel in France. Again Kenna goes for the spectacular and the solitary. His scenes of Mon-Saint-Michel in varying weather and at different times of day are ghostly evocations of medieval grandeur; trees in a Japanese landscape are a spare haiku of black branches against a snowy ground. Though small in their dimensions, Kenna's prints packed a big and memorable wallop.

By Ann Landi
Originally published in the March 2008 issue of ArtNews

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