Whitney Museum Showcases Danny Lyon Photos, Documentaries

A comprehensive June 17-Sept. 25 exhibit.

Reviewers of “Danny Lyon: Message to the Future,” a new exhibit that opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art June 17, have been focusing not so much on the 175 featured photos but rather the trio of documentaries that go along with them. These rarely seen artifacts are the true prize of a show that will move on in the late fall to San Francisco’s deYoung Museum.

The 21-minute Soc. Sci 127, made in 1969, profiles Houston tattoo artist Bill Sanders. Dear Mark, completed in 1981 and running 15 minutes, is about sculptor Mark di Suvero. And 1985’s Willie, which runs a feature-length 82 minutes, chronicles the life of New Mexico delinquent Willie Jaramillo. From Rebecca Bengal’s Vogue piece:

Lyon grew up in Queens; his father, an optometrist, was Alfred Stieglitz’s eye doctor. Metaphor-inspiring and uncanny brushes with fame have marked his life ever since.

Lyon ran for class president of Forest Hills High School but lost out to Art Garfunkel. In his 20s, when he set off on his Triumph to “record and glorify the life of the American bike rider,” riding and living among a particularly tough tribe of bikers, he received an uncharacteristically cautionary letter from Hunter S. Thompson: “I think you should get the hell out of that club unless it’s absolutely necessary for photo action.”

This is the first major retrospective of Lyon’s work in 25 years. Teeing up the show last week in The New York Times, Jonathan Blaustein drew a fun comparison between Lyon and Bernie Sanders. Certainly, you can hashtag this show #FeeltheNostalgia, as it recalls an era when not everyone was a self-professed smartphone, Instagram photographer.

Screen grab via: whitney.org