James Van Der Zee to Helmut Newton, a Photo Potpourri at Hal Bromm

"Cemetery," 1950, by Andreas Feininger; "Portrait of Veronica Lake," 1942, by Eliot Elisofon. Courtesy Hal Bromm Gallery

Mar. 13, 2018

If only size mattered, then Marilyn Monroe would be the star of this eclectic display of photographs, simply titled “Photo Show,” now at the Hal Bromm Gallery. Upon entering the Tribeca art space, she greets you nearly from floor to ceiling in 10 poses, wearing that come-hither look and little else. The set of framed color photographs, faded into reddish hues, is from Bert Stern’s famed 1962 series, “The Last Sitting,” recorded six weeks before the actress’s death.

While Marilyn may be the show’s dominant presence, she is just the opener in an unusual mix of artists and eras that come together in a logic all its own.

“It’s a potpourri,” Bromm told me during a visit to the show. “Happily, a lot of work that came from different collections I think marry well with work with other collections, just by chance.”

This is Bromm’s third show of photographs in his more than 40 years as a gallery owner and the first drawn from collectors rather than the artists themselves. So the range is hugely diverse. Here we can find Henri Cartier-Bresson’s joyful 1938 image of a formally outfitted couple, the woman taking a standing ride on a swing. And nearby is a 2006 photograph by Ariane Lopez Huici, perhaps best known for her chiaroscuro black-and-white images of very large naked women. But in this one, from Huici’s enigmatic Shai Ha series, the photographer hides far more than she shows. Just a single foot emerges from a sculptural mass of twisted fabric.

Prints from other contemporary photographers, a Rebecca Blake nude, Gerald Incadela’s figurative image created in part by brushing developer onto photo paper, and three straight color photographs by Mark Golderman are included. But for the most part the photographers represented are, like Cartier-Bresson, well known 20th century artists no longer living, such as Aaron Siskind, Clarence John Laughlin, Imogen Cunningham and Robert Mapplethorpe.

Some standout offerings include “The Heiress,” 1938, by James Van Der Zee, the portraitist and documentarian of the 1920s and 30s Harlem Renaissance. It pictures an African-American woman standing in an opulently appointed bedroom, a room said to be her inheritance from the white woman she had long worked for. And what may be the most iconic of all graveyard photos is Andreas Feininger’s 1952 view of a Queens cemetery, the occupants as packed together in death as in life.

Feininger is one of several former Life magazine photographers in the show. Others include Margaret Bourke-White, one of Life’s original four photojournalists, whose snowy scene may have the distinction of being the most soothing image in the gallery, and Philippe Halsman, represented by his own famous—maybe the most famous—Marilyn portrait. Life’s Gjon Mili was known for his technically cutting-edge multiple exposures of dancers and the early one here, from 1941, is an interesting counterpoint to a more classic shot by his colleague Eliot Elisofon, a 1950 photo of Margot Fonteyn performing “Swan Lake.” More striking by Elisofon is his 1942 color portrait of a porcelain-faced Veronica Lake.

Helmut Newton is well represented with seven examples of his erotically charged fashion photos of lanky, elegant women. An exception is his picture of Hugh Hefner in a self-mocking pose with long-time girlfriend Carrie Leigh. He, in his signature silk robe, is seated, holding a bottle weirdly to his lips; she stands, showing bare legs, her back to the man she would later sue for palimony.

So take your pick among the richly varied offerings in Hal Bromm’s “Photo Show.” It’s a good opportunity to revisit works you may know, or make the happy acquaintance of some others.

“Photo Show” is at Hal Bromm Gallery, 80 West Broadway, 2nd floor, until May 25. Gallery hours: Tuesday through Friday, 12 to 5 p.m.