TIME photo essay

Irving Penn: Radical Beauty

The exhibition show Radical Beauty presently showing at Fraenkel Gallery explores Penn's radical/creative/challenging investigation into what constitutes beauty.

Describing Irving Penn’s first pictures for Vogue, Editorial Director Alexander Liberman stated, “These images were so new, so divorced from current imaginative traditions, that they were a revelation.” Penn’s photographs continued in this vein for the duration of his working life.

Irving Penn was a master photographer, with a distinctive and unique vision. He could move effortlessly from studio portraiture to still life, from creating images of high fashion to documenting the tribal people of Papua New Guinea. Many remarkable images by Penn are informed at the intersection of these disparate worlds, artistically colliding to astonishing effect.

The exhibition, Radical Beauty — presently showing at Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco—explores Penn’s groundbreaking investigation into what constitutes beauty and includes several images combining the genres of beauty, portrait, and still life photography to create compelling photographs of sculptural form.

The exhibition also includes Penn’s early nudes as well as his portraits, Hells Angel and Five Okapa Warriors. The show highlights the full range of his work — work that constantly questions and reinvents the parameters of physical beauty and photographic excellence.

The Exhibition Radical Beauty, 1946-2007 at the Fraenkel Gallery runs from June 30 to August 20.

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