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Sunday, May 31, 2009

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Much anticipated “Natural Affinities” exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams opened at SFMOMA, defined by the curatorial juxtapositions of O’Keeffe’s color-obsessed paintings of mountain ridges, plants, and indigenous architecture and Adams’s black and white tonal photography of the same subject matter. The dialog of the two great American artists, equally fascinated by the grander of Nature, unfolds in the dry desert air of New Mexico, under its vast blue sky, on the land scarcely populated and far removed from the mainstream masses and events. In this rarified air of solitude and close observation evolved the masterpieces of O’Keeffe’s sensual, feminine abstractions of hills, trees and flowers, characterized by delicate yet meticulous and disciplined brushstrokes (perhaps, a far consequence of her upbringing by a stern mother and severe nuns in a boarding school). Similarly, Adams’s photography is highly recognizable through the amount of labor invested in its measured exposition, adjusted contrast and the very choice of a particular moment in the life of nature when it creates a stir – a cloud in the sky, a shadow in the snow, a foam on a wave crashing against a shore. The show is challenged by another important exhibition, also just opened in the Photography gallery – “Looking In: Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’,” a profound socio-psychological venture into the very soul of the nation, taken step-by-step, person-by-person, all across the country, exposing the loneliness, the misery, the desperate hopes of the people crushed by the injustices and inequalities of their daily lives, clinging to each other in search of love and solace in public parks, diners, and on the roads of their land of the free. The exhibition is dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the famously important photography book, created by Frank after a nine-month exploration of “the kind of civilization born here and spreading elsewhere” – it seems, not only in space, but also in time, affecting the present as well as the past. The O’Keeffee/Adams show closes on September 7, and the Frank show on August 23. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is located at 151 Third Street, SF. Call 415-357-4000 or visit Images: 1. Georgia O’Keeffee, The Black Iris, 1926. 2. Ansel Adams, Winter Sunrise, 1944. 3. Robert Frank, 40 Fotos [page 19], 1946. 4. Robert Frank, 40 Fotos [page 20], 1946.


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