Sunday, December 6, 2015

More Photos at the National Gallery of Art

Where: National Gallery of Art

When: through March 13, 2016

2015 represents the 25th anniversary of the National Gallery's photography collection.  This is the final show of the celebration of that anniversary, and there are many things worth seeing in it.

It's organized into five different rooms, each with its own theme.  I didn't necessarily find the organizational scheme all that intuitive, but frankly, you can get plenty out of the show without concerning yourself with why certain pieces are put into the same room.

One of the things I liked best was actually outside of the rooms - a set of two pieces, one a painting by George Bellows entitled "New York" and the other a photographic collage by Vik Muniz called "New York City, after Bellows."  Basically, Muniz sought to re-create Bellows' painting by taking photographs, putting them together into a collage and then photographing and enlarging that.  Both works are great on their own; putting them together just makes them better.

Richard Avedon is well represented in this show.  I very much admired his portrait, taken in 1963, of a man born into slavery.  There's something about the way this (very old) man stares into the camera that forces the viewer to acknowledge his condition - you can't ignore him.  Very powerful.

In another room, there is an entire wall of portraits of 1970s political celebrities, also by Avedon.  There's a listing of who's who, and I enjoyed looking at the photographs and trying to identify the subjects.  Lots of people who are now either deceased or much older - it really takes you back 40 years.

Diane Arbus is also on display, in a series of photos of "awkward children."  Really, don't all of us fall into that category from time to time?

Verdict: Perhaps not as good as the earlier show, "The Memory of Time," but if you like photography, well worth seeing.

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