Saturday, April 7, 2012

Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage

Where: American Art Museum

When: through May 20, 2012

One might expect to head to the Portrait Gallery side of the museum to see an exhibit of Annie Leibovitz works, but this show is not a typical Annie Leibovitz show.  These are not obviously portraits; the photo of Niagara Falls pictured here is illustrative of what you will see.

Yet, I think you could look at these photographs as portraits, although the subjects of the works are not pictured.  Leibovitz took these photos of objects associated with two dozen people who were influential to her and her work.  For example, she has a photo of Elvis Presley's motorcycle.  The exhibit notes state that these photographs construct a portrait of Leibovitz herself, as she seeks to portray the qualities of character she admired in these people, she creates a picture of herself.  I was reminded of a conversation I'd had with a friend about how one's book collection is autobiographical.  The books you have, the ones you keep, the ones you display on a book shelf in a public room of your house tell something about you.  These photographs do the same thing for Leibovitz.

In addition to the photographs of objects belonging to particular people, photographs of places are included as well.  They are, in effect, pictures of what influence all of us, the common cultural legacy we all share.

I was struck by a photograph of the hands from the Lincoln Memorial - modeled on Daniel Chester French's own hands, a picture of Eleanor Roosevelt's cottage at Val-Kill, (and reminded of the White House decorative arts display, which had a piece of furniture from Val-Kill) and a mention of Annie Oakley, who participated in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show - how many references to that show have I seen since I saw that exhibit of Native Americans who performed in it?  Too many to count.

Verdict: A nice show, not overly large, easily managed in a lunch hour.

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