Introduction by Arthur C. Danto. The Monacelli Press, a division of Random House, New York. Clothbound;142 pages; 85 color plates. ISBN No. 978-1-58093-21906. Information: http://www.monacellipress.com , or http://www.lynnsaville.com .

This compelling and beautifully reproduced collection of New York city nightscapes places photographer Lynn Saville in heady company, and not merely that of the Weeges or Arbuses who once codified the modernist dark side of Manhattan. As Columbia University professor and The Nation's art critic Arthur C. Danto writes in his introduction, Saville is "the Atget of vanishing New York, prowling her city at the other end of the day, picking up pieces of the past in the present, just before it is swallowed by shadows."

The comparison is apt if inverted, since Atget chronicled an early-morning, near-deserted Paris, while Saville has specialized in nocturnes, pitting familiar objects against a luminous night sky, and now turns a color-saturated, ambient-lit style toward a similarly deserted New York, just as evening falls. The peaceable moodiness of these urban meditations conveys a near-religious radiance. It belies the urban, quotidian emphasis on industrial sites, elevated train trestles, a garish Nathan's hot dog joint against the undiminished azure sky. Meanwhile, the slick streets, multi-level parkland, classical archways, steel girders, raw facades, glaring lampposts and illuminated windows of the city are enriched for us, as Saville's camera frames them with an eye for fascinating detail and Renaissance perspective--the Bethesda fountain, for example, glimpsed in blue winter twilight from beneath a far arcade, or a view of the Manhattan skyline from behind New Jersey's iconic waterfront Pepsi-Cola sign.

Saville's "Night/Shift" may well bear comparison to past masters, but it also evokes the contemporary night vision of another photographic artist, Marcus Doyle, who likewise deals in ambient light, long exposures, unpeopled locales and saturated color. But where Doyle's images are often so far removed from urban iconography that they take on the aura of alien shrines, Saville's remain doggedly devoted to revisioning the familiarities of the city. And yet one photo, of the sterile corners of Wyeth Avenue, feels otherworldly, and is bisected down the middle by a lamp pole, all of it echoing a Doyle image that similarly breaks the modernist rule against symmetry in framing a foregrounded vertical element.

Indeed, Saville is part of a photographic vanguard, one that drinks deeply of the possibilities of available light, hyper-real color and evocative yet unromanticized subject matter. And just as her work may inspire comparison to photographic pioneers such as Atget, they also remind us of painterly masters such as Edward Hopper, who found a visual vocabulary that bespoke modern isolation without indulging in cheap effect or overstatement. Lynn Saville's photographs are in such a grand tradition, yes, but their real strength is that they seem to be establishing a new tradition as well.

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