Friday, February 15, 2008

On the air on Monday

click here to hear Kojo

On Monday, February 18, 2008 I'll be on the Kojo Nnamdi Show discussing the Greater Washington area visual arts and artists and art stories as I usually do several times a year.

Tune in to WAMU 88.5 FM around noon.

If you have any questions or art issues, you can call Kojo during the show at (800) 433-8850 or you can email him questions to

After the show I will post here all the websites and information that we discuss on the air.

Images of Children at Widener University

"A Photographic Treasury: Images of Children by Master Photographers from the Reader's Digest Collection," currently at Widener University Art Gallery in Chester, PA (through March 1, 2008), is not only a very focused exhibition on the thematic subject of the title, but also an exhibition that really merits the use of the word "Master Photographers" in its title.

Disclaimer: My wife teaches at Widener, and I often eat at the school cafeteria, which makes really good cookies and has a top notch salad bar. I also own a Widener coffee mug.

Curated by Nancy Miller Batty, this 105-work survey includes many classic and familiar vintage photographs of children by major American, Latin American and European photographers from the late 19th century to the present.

The works are arranged thematically to present views about childhood that have existed over the last century or so. It begins with a romantic view of childhood, and then progresses to the relationships between children and adults.

This is definitely a Who's Who in world photography, and there are pre-WWI early works by Edward Sheriff Curtis, Alfred Stieglitz, Heinrich Kuehn and others. Post WWI photographers are also full of all the major names, such as Andre Kertesz, Imogen Cunningham, Henri Carrier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Aaron Siskind, Weegee, Paul Strand and many others.

The post WWI and contemporaries are equally well-represented by the likes of Sally Mann, Adam Fuss, Ilse Bing, Gary Winograd, Irving Penn, Diane Arbus, Nicholas Nixon, Robert Mapplethorpe, Carry Mae Weems, Sebastian Salgado and many others.

Adam Fuss' blank untitled photogram of a child in profile is one of the few failures in an otherwise show full of jewels in every frame. The minimalist white photogram, comes across like a collegiate art school assignment when surrounded by the works of the other masters; it just fails visually from the first glance and through the second and third opportunity for redemption.

Across from it is one of the reasons for its failure: the gorgeous "Pamela" (Plate 23) from Joel Meyerowitz's odd and highly successful series on redheads. The subject is radiant and full of color, smiles and the essence of happy childhood - it casts a bright and bold set of sunrays all over the room, essentially eclipsing Fuss' blank experiment.

Frederick Sommer's LiviaIt's tough to pick the brightest diamond when you are surrounded by the best photographic gems of the last 125 years, but some works stood out even among giants.

One such piece was Frederick Sommer's "Livia," a 1948 sensitive treatment of a very pretty child, where the girl's luminous blue eyes are like magnets not only to the camera but also to us. It delivers the sort of hypnotic quality that recent digitally enhanced shots sometimes offer.

I also like Robert Mapplethorpe's "Bruno Bischofberger's Daughter," a cousin photograph to Sommer's earlier work and a work that shows the occasional pornographer's talent as a portraitist of all ranges and types.

I was less interested in Tina Barney's claustrophobic "Marina's Room." Maybe there is some compositional success in delivering a photograph with fear of empty space.

But neither scale (48 x 40 inches), nor its horror vaccuii saves this piece from being a little puerile.

Tina Barney's Marina's Room
Marina's Room by Tina Barney

Carrie Mae Weems' untitled triptych depicting a tense mother-daughter-homework scene, whether posed or true, is powerful as a narrative piece can be - full of tension and questions. On the polar opposite of this internal spectrum is Sally Mann's "Virginia Asleep," from 1988.Seydou Keita

On the way out I was dragged back in by Seydou Keita "Untitled (Man with Baby)" from 1949, in which a giant of a man tenderly holds a baby. The man sits massive and Earth-like like a male African version of Michelangelo's Pieta.

His enormous circumference dwarfs the world and threatens to overfill the camera's lenses. It is a photograph heavy with fatherhood, happiness and presence.

Overall this is a very strong show and definitely worth a stop for anyone traveling through the I-95 corridor, as Widener is just a couple of minutes off exit 6 on I-95.

Wanna go to a Baltimore opening tomorrow?

Eureka: Happy Accidents & Exquisite Failures; a group exhibition curated by Suzannah Gerber at Load of Fun gallery in Baltimore. Featuring works by the following artists:

Liz Albertson, Julia Arredondo, Jordan Faye Block, Tom Brown, Ryan Emge, Rachel Faller, Andrew Farkas, Karly Hansen, J. Gavin Heck, Michelle Herman, Juliet Hinely, Katherine Mann, Greg McLemore, Katherine Nammacher, Michael Northrup, Christine Ricks, Reed Sayre, Kayla Shea, Brady Starr, Daniel Stuelpnagel, Vanessa Viruet, Jessica Wang, Todd Welsh, Monica Wuedel-Lubinski and more.