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2006 11 15
Adams / Eisenstaedt Mashup At The AGO
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20th Century photography changed the world. The refinement of photomechanical reproduction and mass distribution technologies led many in the avant-garde to claim that art was dead. Of course, it wasn't. What was dead, however, was mass ignorance. Images and text together became the basis of the modern news and information industry.

This Saturday, the Art Gallery of Ontario launches its next big show of 2006 when the doors open to "Ansel Adams | Alfred Eisenstaedt: Two Photographers. Two Visions." The two photographers represent opposing ends of the photography as influencer spectrum.

Adams looked to nature for some seminal truths about the world around him. In fact, his personal vision of the majesty of nature and its fragility grows more influential as people begin to understand that our world is finite. Eisenstaedt, on the other hand, documented the urban world. The people and things that defined the zeitgeist of mid-20th Century culture were his subjects.

The show manages the tension created by the two polarities well. Maybe it is because both collections are so iconic. Whatever the reason, the contrast is effective. Call it the ying and yang approach to curation. The AGO seems to be embracing that as a curatorial style.

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Look, for example, at the Henry Moore / Julian Opie mashup. Who knew the juxtaposition could work? Yet, it does in a way that enables a new interpretation of both artists. But don't get too analytical: the figure-ground relationship between the sculptures and the 2d wall figures is a head-spinning surprise.

Of either photographer's work, the one piece I find most powerful is the Ansel Adams screen. It is subtle and complex at he same time and evokes something of the feeling I get when looking at a Monet "Water Lillies" painting. For Adams purists, it alone is worth a visit to the show.

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[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 11/15 at 01:03 PM

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