"Faces in the Crowd"
Dec. 3, 2004 - Jan. 5, 2005

The exhibition’s title is taken from a one-image poem by Ezra Pound: "The apparition of these faces in the crowd; petals on a wet, black bough," inspired by a journey on the Paris metro in 1913.

Pound’s celebrated haiku powerfully evokes the individual immersed within the crowd, lost in a moment of stillness within the modern metropolis. "Faces in the Crowd" explores the condition of modernity through realist art.

Taking Edouard Manet as its starting point and moving through modern masters such as Max Beckmann, Umberto Boccioni, Cindy Sherman, Francis Bacon and Jeff Wall, "Faces in the Crowd" maps social and individual relationships through a history of avant garde configuration.

Artists such as Umberto Boccioni, Edvard Munch and Andy Warhol have used the figure to express sensations of speed, alienation or celebrity in modern life.

Work on show by Eve Arnold, Robert Capa and Andreas Gursky documents the epic and the everyday.

Transformations of the city through architecture and technology created public spaces of leisure and spectacle, which are explored in the works of Eugene Atget, Walter Sickert and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

The reduction of private identities to social type became the defining work of August Sander, while in more recent years Cindy Sherman has used different guises and identities to reinvent a sense of self.

The great revolutions in 20th century art tend to be associated with abstraction. Yet there is a parallel history, which is equally radical.

Manet’s vividly realist scenarios or Jeff Wall’s cinematic tableaux offer a compelling snapshot of the modern. By contrast, Edvard Munch or Francis Bacon present a tortured or exhilarated inner life. And for Alexander Rodchenko, Joseph Beuys or Chris Ofili, the figure becomes a harbinger of change: symbolic, revolutionary or transgressive.

Shown above: “The Visual Tower,” (1966)
Glass jars, wood and Tower magazine illustrations
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Marcel Broodthaers

Structured into broadly themed sections, representations of the human figure are seen as expressions of modernity, becoming ciphers for the experience of modern life; as images of modern life, picturing both the epic and the everyday; or as agents of social change, where avant-garde realism proposes new world orders.

Other artists experiment in understanding and furthering a modern self-consciousness in the viewer. Underpinning the whole is the relationship between the individual and society.

The exhibition includes not only masterpieces of painting, but also sculpture, photography and the moving image, with each work pivotal to the story of Modernism. "Faces in the Crowd" traces the story of modernism through its defining artists.

Artists whose work is represented in this major art historical survey include Eve Arnold, Eugene Atget, Francis Bacon, Stephan Balkenhol, Rene Burri, Umberto Boccioni, Christian Boltanski, David Bomberg, Sophie Calle, Robert Capa, James Ensor, Valie Export, George Grosz, Andreas Gursky, John Heartfield, Seydou Keita, William Kentridge, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Käthe Kollwitz, Fernand Legér, Helen Levitt, Rene Magritte, Edouard Manet, Edvard Munch, Eduardo Paolozzi, Pablo Picasso, Gerhard Richter, Thomas Schütte, Cindy Sherman, Jeff Wall, Andy Warhol and Jack B. Yeats.

Shown/header image: "Maika," (1929)
Oil on canvas
Private Collection, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo: Benjamin Hasenclever, München
Christian Schad

Find it: Whitechapel Art Gallery
80-82 Whitechapel High Street
Get there: Tube to Aldgate East
Get info: +(0)20 7522 7888

Find art events in other cities, in the DEC/JAN issue of "Arte Six."