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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

All American photo exhibit, featuring 70 pictures, in spotlight at UK Art Museum

By Whitney Hale
Special to KyForward
 

The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky is showcasing a new exhibition that is uniquely American. The show features 70 pictures taken by American photographers, ranging from the iconic documentary work of Walker Evans to the contemporary art of Carrie Mae Weems, who was recently awarded a MacArthur “Genius Grant” for her groundbreaking work. “Wide Angle: American Photographs from the Collection,” which is free and open to the public, runs through April 27.
 

Organized by Art Museum at UK curator Janie Welker, “Wide Angle” offers the opportunity to examine the history of American photography in the 20th- and early 21st century through the work of both major and lesser known artists. Among those artists featured are Ansel Adams, Van Deren Coke, Imogen Cunningham, Elliott Erwitt, Robert Frank, Lewis Hine, Dorothea Lange, Helen Levitt, An-My-Lê, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Cindy Sherman, Aaron Siskind, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Doris Ulmann and Andy Warhol.
 


 

Video by Amy Jones-Timoney and Kody Kiser/UK Public Relations and Marketing.
 

Welker, who had a wealth of photographs to choose from in the Art Museum at UK collection, built an exhibition that takes the viewer through the evolution of the medium.
 

“I thought it would be more meaningful to look at the photography thematically. How photographs kind of tell the history of photography in the 20th century. What’s some of the major themes like documentary photography and how that evolved into street photography. In some cases, I chose images that weren’t the most famous images, to show that there was a visual language that evolved and you see it kind of over, over and over again over time.”
 

The Lexington community occupies a unique place in the history of photography thanks to the Lexington Camera Club, which can be seen as one of the last amateur groups to support serious photography. Among its leaders were nationally known figures like Coke and Meatyard, as well as talented regional photographers like Robert C. May, whose bequest of photographs and funding has been integral to building the museum’s collection of more than 1,300 pictures.
 

“Robert C. May was a talented amateur photographer who worked here at UK, and who was very much involved in the photography community. He was part of the Lexington Camera Club and he left a bequest of 198 photographs. About half of them were his own photographs, and half of them were photographs by major photographers of the 20th century, like Ansel Adams and Walker Evans. He also left an endowment to the university which allows us to purchase photography. Over the years we purchased 450 photographs with that endowment,” said Welker.
 

The Lexington Camera Club fostered an interest in experimentation and passion for photography in Lexington that continues today. Its legacy is examined, along with themes that include documentary and socially concerned photography, street photography, modernism, manipulated and constructed imagery, landscape photography and “new topographics.”
 

Welker hopes visitors to “Wide Angle” appreciate the photographers’ artistic efforts as much as she does.
 

“I hope that they love the photographs as much as I do. People think, well, it’s not art because it’s made with this mechanical device. They don’t think anything of the contemporary artist who might have something manufactured to their specification. Or to the Renaissance or Baroque artist who used studios, and had assistants who were painting large portions of their painting. I just think that photography is so fascinating, and I hope that people can come in with an open mind and really appreciate that.”
 

The Art Museum at UK is located in the Singletary Center for the Arts at Rose Street and Euclid Avenue. The hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and noon to 8 p.m. Friday.
 

The Art Museum at UK, part of the UK College of Fine Arts, is home to a collection of more than 4,500 objects, including American and European paintings, drawings, photographs, prints and sculpture, the Art Museum at UK presents both special exhibitions and shows of work from their permanent collection.
 

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Whitney Hale is a senior public relations specialist at the University of Kentucky.

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