Thursday, March 16, 2023

Danny Lyon at the Albuquerque Museum

 The Albuquerque Museum has brought a lot of great exhibits to the city in the years we have lived here.  Journey West: Danny Lyon is the best yet. Lyon has had a home in New Mexico since 1970 and many of the pictures are from that period of his career, but the show is really a retrospective including images from throughout his long life as a photographer and film maker.  The museum's publicity picture for the exhibit is a good example of his content-rich, empathetic and action-packed style.

For the featured exhibits the museum always offers some free 5x8-inch reproductions for people to take, so I brought home five from the Lyon show including his best known, Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville, Kentucky (1960)

Seeing that rider looking back over his shoulder always brings to mind García Lorca's Canción de Jinete (Rider's Song).

  Lejana y sola.

  Jaca negra, luna grande,
  y aceitunas en mi alforja.
  Aunque sepa los caminos
  yo nunca llegaré a Córdoba.

  Por el llano, por el viento,
  jaca negra, luna roja.
  La muerte me está mirando
  desde las torres de Córdoba.

  ¡Ay qué camino tan largo!
  ¡Ay mi jaca valerosa!
  ¡Ay que la muerte me espera,
  antes de llegar a Córdoba.

  Lejana y sola.


  Far away and alone.

  Black pony, big moon,
  and olives in my saddle-bag.
  Although I know the roads
  I'll never reach Córdoba.

  Through the plain, through the wind.
  black pony, red moon.
  Death is looking at me
  from the towers of Córdoba.

  Ay! How long the road!
  Ay! My valiant pony!
  Ay! That death should wait me
  before I reach Córdoba.

  Far away and alone.

  (trans: Stephen Spender and J.L. Gili)


Danny Lyon's blog is Bleak Beauty.

An interview of Lyon by Susan Meiselas covers much of his career.

The Magnum interview.

Many examples of Lyon's work can be found at the International Center of Photography.


The curators did a nice job of summarizing the exhibit at a presentation on opening day.  That is Danny and his wife, Nancy, in the front row.


I have visited the exhibit three times now.  I think it is a very good exhibit, but to fully appreciate Danny Lyon's work one really needs to see the pictures in the context of his complete photo essays as expressed in his books.  The pictures individually are good, but his work is pointed toward getting across often complex messages about society which need some concentrated attention and thoughtful consideration of details, themes and time frames.

Danny Lyon over the years has focused his attention and his art on marginalized groups.  He shows in detail how the members of such groups are dehumanized by the greater society.  His essays and books are calls to action.  For instance, in his book, Conversations with the Dead,  he shows that the correctional system of the U.S. is a continuation of the traditions of slavery and a system that reinforces and perpetuates the behaviors that it is supposedly designed to combat.

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