Philadelphia Museum of Art
David Lebe, Long Light
American Photographer David Lebe at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
With support from The Honickman Foundation among others, The Philadelphia Museum of Art presented the first exhibition devoted to American photographer David Lebe. The exhibition, Long Light, which ran from February 9 through May 5, 2019, examined his remarkable artistic range and adventurous experimentation over five decades, including his powerful representations of the gay experience and living with AIDS.
David Lebe, Angelo on the Roof, 1979
Long Light, a collection of 145 photographs created from 1969 to the present—drawn primarily from the museum's collection and a gift of more than 100 works from the artist—examined Lebe's life and work within the context of the Philadelphia art scene, as well as the broader fields of photography and queer art. The exhibition established Lebe's place within the first generation of artists who frankly explored queer life and desire in their work before and during the AIDS crisis.
David Lebe, Scribbles, 198
Long Light opened with a selection of early works that showed how the artist slowed down the picture‐making process, treating photographs as events in time rather than frozen moments. The exhibition established Lebe's place within the first generation of artists who frankly explored queer life and desire in their work before and during the AIDS crisis.
Lebe's light drawings—images made with a conventional camera opened for long exposures to record the movements of a handheld light—show a profound exchange between artist and subject. In what became his first concrete response to AIDS, he used the same technique, this time drawing freehand, in a more abstract series he called Scribbles.
Other parts of the exhibition featured work created between the 1990s and now. Lebe produced multiple series of camera‐based images that reveal his experience living with AIDS, including a 1992 still‐life series, Food for Thought, which playfully records elements of the macrobiotic diet that he and his partner, Jack Potter, had adopted.
David Lebe, Morning Ritual, 1994
Following the couple's move in 1993 from Philadelphia to the Hudson Valley of New York, Lebe created Morning Ritual (1994–96) and Jack's Garden (1996–97), portfolios of small gelatin‐silver prints depicting their home and daily routines. Taken together, the prints stand as a love poem to Potter and a quiet affirmation of life in the face of AIDS.
David Lebe, Jack's Garden, 1996
The final section of the exhibition showcased Lebe's recent exploration of digital photography in ways that reference earlier work and serve as a testament to his lifelong interest in experimenting with photographic images.
Exhibition curator Peter Barberie, the museum's Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center, said: "I'm humbled to bring to light the work of David Lebe and to share his artistic achievement with a wider audience."