A Photo Potpourri

The Art Museum Mounts a Selection of Its Growing Holdings

by Fernando Quintero

As an art form, photography's unique ability to capture the mood of a particular time and place is unparalleled.

The first major photography exhibition of the University Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive's growing collection will showcase a broad array of pictures spanning more than 140 years of photographic history.

Opening April 3 and running through May 5, "Points of View: Photography from the Collection" takes an expanded look at the medium, including photo silkscreens, platinum prints and autochromes--all from the museum's collection of more than 3,000 photographic works.

"My hope is that audiences see at least one picture they love, whether they find it beautiful, disturbing, funny or intellectually challenging," said museum curator Larry Rinder. "Overall, my hope is that they get a sense of the pervasiveness of photography in 20th century art and culture."

Beginning with an 1858 scene of Paris by Eduard Balus to Catherine Opie's 1994 color portrait of a San Francisco artist in drag, the show encompasses nearly the entire history of photography and represents a wide range of photographic technology.

"It's not so much a history lesson as it is an art show," Rinder explained. "I chose images that were most compelling, sometimes passing on important names."

Not that the show doesn't have its share of shooting stars. Among the exhibition's highlights are works by Andy Warhol, Ansel Adams, Robert Mapplethorpe and Imogene Cunningham.

Featured are two rare photographs from the 1880s of actresses Ellen Terry and Sarah Bernhardt, and "Self Portrait With Whip" by one of North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms' least favorite artists, Mapplethorpe.

Rinder said the diverse group of works reflects the extraordinary adaptability of the photographic medium. "From Julia Margaret Cameron's theatrical staging in the 1874 albumen print, 'Elaine From Idylls of the King,' to the deadpan Conceptual Art documentation of Warhol's color-saturated 1964 photo-silkscreen of Elizabeth Taylor, photography has been used to suit the different needs of artists in the 19th and 20th centuries," he said.

Many of the photographs in the exhibition were acquired within the last five years. Rinder said the museum is working to bolster its photography collection, and he hopes the upcoming show will inspire more collectors as well as artists to donate their works.


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