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Exhibition

Walker Evans

September 30, 2017–February 4, 2018

Unprecedented in scope and scale, this major retrospective of seminal photographer Walker Evans views his work through the lens of one of his obsessions — the American vernacular, or the language of everyday life found in roadside attractions, postcards, storefronts, and signage across the country.

Over five decades, Evans’s powerful images responded to and reflected the spirit, suffering, and fortitude of a nation. His iconic images of the Great Depression and his postwar photo essays depicting shop window displays, urban architecture, and junked automobiles defined a new documentary style that continues to influence generations of artists.

SFMOMA’s exhibition — the only presentation of this retrospective in the U.S. — joins together over 300 breathtaking prints, many of which have never before been exhibited, with nearly 100 documents and objects, including many from the photographer’s personal collection. Together they reveal an exceptional eye for the details of everyday life and an essential understanding of twentieth-century America.

Exhibition Preview

Two boys holding watermelons stand outside of a stand with a rooftop sign reading "F.M. Pointer - The Old Reliabe - House Mover" and the front wall painted with a fish and the words "FISH: Honest Weights, Square Dealings"
Artwork image, Walker Evans, Truck and Sign
A blurry black and white photograph of a screaming man with disheveled hair
A grid of small black and white portraits overlaid with the word STUDIO in block letters
A simple painting on a deserted brown road extending toward the horizon and surrounded on either side by electrical poles and building fronts
A vintage color postcard of cars parked along a street reading "Main Street, Showing Confederate Monument, Lenoir, North Carolina"
Portrait of a woman with a furrowed brow standing in front of an unpainted wood wall
Artwork image, Walker Evans, Resort Photographer at Work

Walker Evans, Roadside Stand Near Birmingham/Roadside Store Between Tuscaloosa and Greensboro, Alabama, 1936; collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; © Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Walker Evans, Truck and Sign, 1928–30; private collection, San Francisco; © Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Walker Evans, Self-Portrait, 1927; collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Ford Motor Company Collection, gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell; © Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Walker Evans, Penny Picture Display, Savannah, 1936; Pilara Foundation Collection; © Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Walker Evans, Untitled [Street scene], 1950s; collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; © Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Lenoir Book Co., Main Street, Showing Confederate Monument, Lenoir, North Carolina, 1900–40; collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Walker Evans Archive; © Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Walker Evans, Allie Mae Burroughs, Wife of a Cotton Sharecropper, Hale County, Alabama, 1936; private collection; © Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Walker Evans, Resort Photographer at Work, 1941; collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; © Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Walker Evans and the American Vernacular

Walker Evans photographed the American vernacular, revealing the language of everyday life found in roadside attractions, postcards, storefronts, and signage across the country. These stories provide deeper insight into the photographer’s uncanny understanding of twentieth-century America.
Visitors in a navy blue gallery looking at signs, photographs and other ephemera See All

This exhibition is organized by the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in collaboration with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Centre Pompidou

Lead support is provided by Randi and Bob Fisher. Major support is provided by Andy and Mary Pilara, the Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund, and Diana and Steve Strandberg. Generous support is provided by the William and Elizabeth Patterson Family Fund, and Joni Binder and Robert Shwarts. Additional support is provided by Colleen Quinn Amster and John Amster, Marc Ebbin, Maren Monsen and Jeff Grainger, J George and Roxane Hume, Kathleen and Robert Matschullat, Michele and Christopher Meany, Jenny Pearlman and Jack McDonald, Abby and Gene Schnair, Robert Harshorn Shimshak and Marion Brenner, Sande Schlumberger, and Meagan Wilson.

Header image: Walker Evans, 2017 (installation view, SFMOMA)