Mar 6, 2006

Art With Ansel Adams

Source: The Philadelphia Daily News
Written by Edward J. Sozanski – Inquirer Art Critic

Ansel Adams has been done to death, hasn’t he? Apparently not. The famed American photographer is one of those marquee artists whom museums love to show because they guarantee a strong turnout. Indeed, on the recent weekday when I saw “Ansel Adams: Celebration of Genius” at the James A. Michener Art Museum, there were more visitors in the main special-exhibition gallery than I had encountered there in years.

However, a disconcerting sign of the times: At any given moment, more people were watching a video about Adams than were looking at his photographs. It’s admittedly a captivating program, especially the segment in which Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe chat about life and art, but still…

This latest Adams exhibition of 150 black-and-white prints comes from the museum of photography and film at the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., which owns a large body of his work. It’s a traveling show, organized in 2002 to mark the centennial of Adams’ birth. (He died in 1984.)

It’s difficult to imagine that there might still be people who have never heard of Adams, or seen one of his classic landscapes made in Yosemite Valley and elsewhere in the Sierra Nevada of California, his native state. His long association with the Sierra Club, which began in the late 1920s, exposed his often breathtaking vistas of the American West to several generations of nature lovers and environmentalists.

Yet, even though Adams has become one of the most widely exposed photographers ever, the Michener exhibition satisfies on several levels. The show is sufficiently large and diverse to give newcomers to the Adams canon a comprehensive introduction to one of the most talented and inspirational photographers of the 20th century. In particular, these visitors will see that while Adams specialized in the wild landscape, he was more a romantic than a strict documentarian.

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Ansel Adams: Celebration of Genius continues at the James A. Michener Art Museum, 138 S. Pine St., Doylestown, through May 14. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, and from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $6.50 general, $6 for visitors 60 and older, and $4 for students with current ID. There is a $4 surcharge for the Adams exhibition. Information: 215-340-9800 or

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