According to Richard Lorenz, author of Imogen Cunningham, Ideas Without End and the forthcoming, Imogen Cunningham, On the Body, there are approximately five vintage prints of Triangles extant. These include the lot offered here, one in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, possibly two other museum collections and one in the family of Imogen Cunningham. It is generally accepted that only prints on matte surface paper and signed in Cunningham's delicate hand of the period are considered to have been made at or near the time of the negative.
In Ideas Without End, Lorenz places Cunningham not only in the context of her peers in California but of the European avant-garde whom she admired. "Rather than supporting the traditional precept that Edward Weston was her modernist mentor, Cunningham's work of the late 1920s presents a strong case for her position as the most independently sophisticated and experimental photographer at work on the West Coast. A review of a photography exhibition at the Berkeley Art Museum in 1929 declared: Imogen Cunningham...is easily the star of the show. She has struck a beautiful balance between quality and organization; she has simplified, yet she has not simplified to the point where her work loses interest...unlike Imogen Cunningham, Weston has simplified his compositions to a degree that results in practically no composition at all..." (op. cit., p. 30).
Cunningham very much appreciated the New Objectivity's sharp-edged practioners such as Albert Renger-Patzsch, Moholy-Nagy, Franz Roh and other artists related to the Bauhaus (ibid, pp. 28-30). Certainly, her sense of abstraction and fascination with detail is reflected in the floral studies of the mid-1920s. Later however, she turns her vision towards the corporeal. "As if her botanical interests had largely been expressed by the late 1920s, Cunningham now began to turn from plant to human forms. She ventured into an exploration of body parts, perhaps spurred by several detailed anatomical studies in the Film und Foto catalogue and its companion publication photo-eye (edited by Franz Roh and Jan Tschichold)..." (ibid, p. 31). In the best spirit of "form follows function," the deliberately tiny and delicate Triangles of 1928 retains a sense of the greater form through the display of only a detail. Although inspired by the New Vision, Cunningham utilizes a soft, almost romantic and complex play of light. In that respect, the print offered here is as fine an example as one might expect from the negative. The rich silver tones and matte sheen of the 1920s paper impart the subtlety of receding forms with an illusion of depth that later papers do not reveal.