This exhibit is part of CHICAGO À PARIS, organized by the Théâtre de la Ville, with the support of The Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States and the University of Chicago.
For the occasion, Les Douches La Galerie will host the sociologist and historian Henri Peretz on Sunday 18 October for a talk on "Why and how turn-of-the-century Chicago became the avant-garde city in areas as different as jazz, photography, architecture and even sociology."
Chicago is one of the most fascinating American cities. For us, the French, it symbolises that particular 20th Century when the cultural avant-garde blossomed, even in the midst of heated social and political battles. It was here that the first sky-scraper was built; it was here that Chicago Blues was forged in the city's streets and nightclubs; here too, in 1937, experimental photography came into its own behind the impetus of László Moholy-Nagy and the Institute of Design.
The photographs of Tom Arndt, Raeburn Flerlage and Vivian Maier, which Les Douches La Galerie will host as part of the "Chicago in Paris" project, are immersed in this context. The three artists moved to Chicago when they were still young, and they were all quickly taken by the giant city's peculiar energy and magnetism.
Born in 1926, Vivian Maier was a nanny and governess who secretly and compulsively engaged in photography for thirty years, without ever making it her occupation. From 1956 until her death in 2009, Chicago would be her home port where she took pictures on the street, mainly of children, the elderly, the marginal, and minorities.
The work of Tom Arndt, who is now seventy-one, harkens back to the great tradition of humanist photography – images that evoke the universal themes of life. His photographs have a softer side, less scathing that those of many of his predecessors. Having spent over seventeen years in the city, Arndt has traipsed across Chicago from end to end and has always striven to tell the tales of ordinary people with kindness.
One has a similar feeling when looking at the work of Raeburn Flerlage, who dedicated his entire life to his sole passion – music – until his death in 2002. He was a writer, a radio host, an album distributor and in the 1950s his career as a photographer coincided with the renaissance of blues and folk music in Chicago.
In this city that continues to fascinate so many artists, Tom Arndt, Raeburn Flerlage and Vivian Maier have photographed Chicago's DNA. Each in his or her own way.
For the length of the exhibit, visitors will be able to listen to the music of the jazz greats... on vinyl of course.