Fred Stein. Modern Times

22 March 2018

Fred Stein. Modern Times

The permanent display Concept and Encounter – The World around 1600 provides insight into the Saxon Electors’ Kunstkammer. Artifacts and natural objects from every known corner of the earth were brought together in this collection in order to make the world accessible in miniature and offer encyclopedic information about the variety of human and natural creations. In its series World Views on Paper, a changing selection of works on paper, drawn from its collection or loans, the Kupferstich-Kabinett (Museum of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs) refers to this presentation.

  • DATES 28/03/2018—25/06/2018

Fred Stein. Modern Times

Whereas in the early modern period, the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge about the world were often tied up with the needs of princely representation, in the modern period, the procurement and spread of knowledge unfold in a very different context. With Fred Stein. Modern Times, the Kupferstich-Kabinett presents a photographer from Dresden (1909-1967), whose life and work were shaped by flight and exile. As a Jew and a staunch socialist, he had to leave Germany after Hitler’s takeover in 1933. Initially in Paris (1933-40) and then in New York (1941-1967), he took possession of his new, and partially strange, social environment with the language of modern photography, disseminating his worldview across various print media to a broader audience. With a selection of some 30 original prints, the Kupferstich-Kabinett gives an insight in Fred Stein’s significant body of work in the field of street and portrait photography.

Schwarz-weiße Fotografie der Brooklyn Bridge
© Fred Stein bei VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018
Fred Stein, Brooklyn Bridge Cables / Drahtseile der Brooklyn Bridge, New York 1948 250 x 195 mm

Fred Stein. Modern Times

Fred Stein in Paris

In Paris, Fred Stein – who had trained as a lawyer – became a freelance photographer, using his handheld Leica camera, a wedding present. Life in the modern metropolis became the main subject to which he devoted himself, with commissions for different magazines as well as working on his own initiative. In his work, he principally pursued two strategies, which overlap time and again. In the spirit of the emerging genre of street photography, he was especially interested in situations of urban everyday life, which he sometimes records with a dynamic journalistic style and sometimes with a calm, concentrated perspective. At the same time, he attempted, in the spirit of the so-called New Vision, to achieve unusual angles, yielding geometrically and graphically interesting compositions. Portraits of anonymous workers stand next to curious street scenes and sometimes nearly abstract pictorial patterns. Stein’s emphatically modern pictorial language demonstrates his desire for social change no less than his orientation toward the working class does.

Fred Stein in New York

In New York as in Paris, Fred Stein tried to connect political questions with formal ambitions in his photographic practice. His artistic and social drives show us his affinity to the Photo League, to which he belonged for a time. This photographic association, which lasted from 1936 until 1951, declared their goal to be the reflection of the actual living conditions of people in well-composed and moving images, and they introduced this program to the public through exhibitions and publications. Likewise, Fred Stein directed his alert, photographic gaze at the social, cultural, and ethnic variety of the metropolis of New York. In addition to intimate scenes of big city life and mass events like military parades and political demonstrations, Stein was also fascinated by the architecture of Manhattan and American consumer culture. Through a pictorial language of striking condensation and tense constellations, he succeeded in creating a complex portrait of his new home.

After the great exhibition “Wols' Photography“ (2013), the Kupferstich-Kabinett dignifies another photographer from Dresden who created an oevre of international prominence. Since his native town has nearly lost sight of Fred Stein for the last decades, time has come to bring him back into people’s consciousness in the context of Dresden’s history of photography and art. Not only will there be a small presentation of vintage prints in the Kupferstich-Kabinett’s Studiolo at Dresden Royal Palace, but the Dresden City Museum is also hosting the biographical retrospective exhibition “Fred Stein. Dresden – Paris – New York”. Displaying mostly modern prints, the exhibition can be visited from 28 April 2018.

The SKD will communicate on social media with the hashtags #fredstein, #kupferstichkabinettdresden and #skdmuseum.

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