Berenice Abbott’s Photographs of Loy’s Art

A recent issue of PMLA features an article by Amy E. Elkins that recounts her discovery of photographs taken by Berenice Abbott of Mina Loy’s late mixed media assemblages, constructed in the 1950s (Vol. 134, No. 5, October 2019, pp. 1094-1103). The photographs, held at the Ryerson Gallery, richly include two untitled works by Loy alongside Christ on a Clothesline, Househunting, Community Cot, and Bums Praying. The final titled image, and the two untitled pieces, have not been previously published. Amy E. Elkins (Assistant Professor of English, Macalester College) accompanies the photographs with a short essay describing the Ryerson’s 2015 acquisition of the a small collection of Abbott’s photographs and her subsequent discovery that images of Loy’s artwork were included in this archive. Abbott and Loy, friends the 1920s when both lived in Paris, renewed their friendship in the 1940s and 1950s in New York. Loy allowed Abbott to photograph her assemblages from this period.title page PMLA articleElkins specifies the significance of these photographs:

[F]irst, the photographs are the only truly contemporary images of Loy’s assemblages that show them the way Loy herself chose to display them, revealing Loy’s particular orientation of her artwork. . . . Second, while some of the content of the photographs may be recognizable¬† . . . none of the previously circulated images of the assemblages were produced by Abbott. And third, of the seven assemblages in these newly discovered photographs, three have never been published or seen by the public, to my knowledge, making them a tremendous new contribution to our study of Loy’s multimedia practice. (1095)

Cover of PMLA 134.5 [10.2019]