Tom Ardnt: American Reflections

After Home in 2014, Les Douches la Galerie dedicates a new solo exhibition to the work of Tom Arndt. Alongside the publication of the book American Reflections by the Atelier EXB, the exhibition brings together twenty-six photographs taken from 1970 to the present day, and printed by the artist. Together, they reveal the poetry of simple things in urban, suburban and rural America.
Since the mid-1960s, Tom Arndt has been the most vital force representing the photographic consciousness and innovation of Minneapolis. (…) His photographs of the city have contributed to the genre of street photography, an integral part of the history of photography. (…) As a young photographer Arndt experienced one of the most turbulent periods in postwar American history. In July 1967, triggered by decades of police brutality against African Americans in the North Minneapolis communities, the Minneapolis riot had erupted amid the nation-wide Civil Rights Movement. Arndt used (and still uses) Leica rangefinder cameras, to document the city’s streets during this transformative period. Subsequently pursuing graduate studies in photography at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Arndt further developed his skills with influential photographers and filmmakers who embraced conceptual documentary practice, such as Jerome Liebling, Elaine Mayes, and Allen Downs.

He was exposed to photographs by Minor White, Gordon Parks, Esther Bubley, and John Vachon. Robert Frank, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, and Bill Brandt, among many others, also had an impact on the young Arndt. (…) Arndt benefited greatly from the robust development of Mia’s photography collection and exhibition program, directed by the museum’s first Curator of Photographs, Ted Hartwell, whom Arndt met during the second year of his graduate studies. The museum’s strong photographic program blossomed thanks to Hartwell’s ambition, supported by the city’s philanthropic community and initially by the curator’s friendship with John Szarkowski, the director and curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1962 to 1991.

(Artist Talks during Paris Photo 2022)

(Originally from Wisconsin, Szarkowski had worked as a staff photographer at the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis before joining MoMA.) (…) Szarkowski, who shared with Arndt a passion to make photographs about Minnesota, played an instrumental role in acquiring his work in the early 1980s for the MoMA collection. Arndt’s complex images of Minneapolis often reveal a store window with kaleidoscopic views of the city’s urban and built environments and passersby, including Arndt himself. He also made cars and trucks—an important means of transportation in the everyday life of the state, whether parked or on the urban and suburban streets—a subject of his pictorial observation. Also taken in the city, the photograph titled 4th of July, Minneapolis, 1976 is a different kind of image of the city. There, Arndt photographed three fashionably dressed black youths (sporting Afros, bell-bottom jeans, and platform shoes) seated on the grass, relaxing while they wait for the Fourth of July celebrations in Powderhorn Park in southern Minneapolis. Arndt grew up in this area and he frequented the park—which is also within a mile of George Floyd Square—and knew the neighborhood well. (…) Most of those he photographed were aware of him and he often engaged in conversation with them. For Arndt it is important that the people he photographs feel comfortable, an outlook that tends to produce intimacy between him and his subjects. (…) Thirty-six years later, in the spring and summer of 2020, Arndt traced the devastation of Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd on May 27, 2020, in southern Minneapolis, a neighborhood the photographer grew up in and knew well. (…)
(Yasufumi Nakamori Extracts from “Tom Arndt and Minneapolis”, published in Tom Arndt: American Reflections, Atelier EXB, 2O22)

About the Author

Born in Minneapolis, Tom Arndt’s photography focuses on his native Minnesota. Belonging to the grand, classic tradition of American documentary photography, Tom Arndt’s body of work offers us a sensitive, empathetic portrayal: a family album of the people who live in his state including their coffee shops and soda fountains, their streets, their shop windows, their parks, the popular state fairs. Pessimism and pity are out of place here. As Arndt’s friend and well known writer Garrison Keillor points out, Tom Arndt photographs the DNA of Minnesotan culture: the poor and the left out.

A portrait of Tom Ardnt

Tom Arndt belongs to the silver print processing tradition; his printing is exceptionally beautiful. He spends at least several hours daily in the darkroom; he really loves the paper print. Arndt received a BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (1968) and did graduate study at the University of Minnesota (1969-1971). His photographs have been exhibited at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and other venues. His work is held in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; George Eastman House, Rochester, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

Tom Ardnt: American Reflections
Les Douches la Galerie – Paris- France

Hardcover: 152 pages, 86 black-and-white photographs
Publisher: Atelier EXB (2022)
Language: English, French
Size: 9.44 x 12.4 inches
Text by: Sarah Hermanson Meister and Yasufumi Nakamori
ISBN-13: 978-2365113434


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