Amon Carter Museum of American Art
Closes Sunday, April 21, 2013
Closing this Sunday, April 21, 2013, is a delightful exhibition of large photographs at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. The exhibition is called Big Pictures and the title means what it says. On display are some really big pictures from the museum’s collection. Big Pictures is an exhibition of forty works that explore what larger media brings to contemporary photography.
Large photographs means there is more to see and enjoy. While viewing Laura McPhee’s Understory Flareups, Fourth of July Creek, Valley Road Wild Fire, Custer County, Idaho (2005), the viewer will get lost in the trees and the rays of light as they streak through the smoke. It is only after viewing this very large image that it comes to mind that there is indeed something on fire.
As great as these photographs are in stature, they are also innovations in photography. William Henry Jackson’s Excursion Train, Lewiston Branch, New York Central Railway above the Niagara Rapids (1890) is a combination of three large-plate negative which were masterfully stitched together in an era well before Photoshop. Large photographs with this much detain require printing directly from the negatives on a one to one basis. Most large-plate negatives at the time were only 8 x 10 inches. Jackson’s photograph appears to be using 11 x 14 inch negative, otherwise known as ultra-large format.
There are a bounty of large photographs to see. One large image that should not be over looked is David Levinthal’s Cowboy (1988). Levinthal has photographed a child’s toy (a cowboy shooting a gun and riding a horse) and turned it into a scene from a movie. The sharpness of the cowboy with the blurriness of the fore and background along with the dynamic lighting make for an exciting scene. Cowboy is located just outside the Big Pictures exhibit.
Another favorite not to miss is Vera Lutter’s Grace Building XII: March 12, 2005 (2005). Lutter turns rooms into camera obscura, which is just a fancy way of saying the whole room becomes a camera. The process involves completely darkening every aspect of a room from the windows to all the cracks around the doors. The room must be totally dark. Then a small aperture can be added to one of the windows. This tiny hole turns the entire room into a pinhole camera. The image outside the window is projected through the tiny aperture into the entire room, but in reverse and up-side-down, because that is how cameras work.
After turning her room into a camera obscura, Lutter could easily have used a large sheet of film or more likely a large piece of printing paper, which will record the image in a negative state. Lutter chose to leave her image in the negative state, which garners a double take or two from viewers. Instead of an all too familiar city-scape, we have an unworldly, reversed image. Simply beautiful.
The large photographs in Big Pictures are a joy to behold. The Amon Carter Museum of American Art has room after room of enormous images all taken with the push of a button. Big Pictures closes Sunday, April 21, 2013. Don’t miss it.
Maria Cosindas: Instant Color
Also on view at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art is Marie Cosindas: Instant Color. This exhibition is nearly the exact opposite of Big Pictures in that all the images are small 4 x 6 inch color photographs. Cosindas (a designer, dressmaker and actress) took up photography as a way of making notes. She quickly gravitated to instant-developing color film and demonstrated that this new process had artistic potential. Cosindas photographed people and everyday objects. This rich collection of diminutive photographs even include a still of Andy Warhol, who was also captivated by instant photography.
Maria Cosindas: Instant Color is on view at the Amon Carter Museum of American art through May 26, 2013.