"The Collectible Moment: Photographs in the Norton Simon Museum" 01.09.07
AUTHOR: MICOL HEBRON 10.13.06-02.26.07 The Norton Simon Museum
In a region where photography generally exists for the benefit of plastic surgeons and celebrities, it’s exciting to see a show that reminds us of the medium’s significant role in the evolution of modern and postmodern art in California. “The Collectible Moment” features some 165 photographs by midcentury greats such as Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Judy Dater, Kenneth Josephson, and Robert Heinecken. A hallmark exhibition of works from the Norton Simon Museum’s own collection, the show illuminates the rich history of American twentieth-century photography, demonstrating how the medium carries on both Objectivist and New Vision traditions. While many of the photos are clearly involved in a dialogue with the works of Andy Warhol, Man Ray, and Robert Rauschenberg, the stunning formalism in photos by Brett and Edward Weston, Frederick Sommer, and Barbara Morgan also draw connections to Abstract Expressionism. The indelible effects of TV culture and the '60s-era cult of psychedelia are visible, too, manifesting in cross-processing and experimental images by Edmund Teske, Todd Walker, and Robert Heinecken. The show’s photos traverse numerous styles—documentary, Pop, Conceptual, abstract, postmodern—and offer a succinct and impressive summary of the source of much inspiration for artists later in the century. Andre Kertész’s Underwater Swimmer, 1917, uncannily presages David Hockney’s underwater figure in Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1971. As if this show’s seminal works weren’t incentive enough, there are also thirteen women photographers represented (a surprisingly large number for a show covering the history of photography). And then there is the “Baseball-Photographer Trading Card” series by Mike Mandel, which features a phenomenal portrait of a septuagenarian Ansel Adams wearing a catcher’s mask, a paisley shirt, tousled white hair, and an impish grin.