Wednesday, June 19

Angles through


Angles through

the eras

For 160 years, the photograph has been able to make time stand
still. The Armand Hammer Museum’s exhibit "Arrows of Time" displays
the best of these moments frozen on film.

By Kristen Fiore

The morning mist rises from the rolling hills of Gettysburg,
revealing the slaughtered and deserted bodies of young soldiers.
Though this morning took place over 130 years ago, its horror is as
vivid to us today through its preservation on film.

From immortal portraits of Lincoln to the haunting images the
Vietnam War to your baby pictures, photographs have documented
nearly every facet of the human experience.

To celebrate the visual diary of photography, UCLA at the Armand
Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center is presenting "Arrows of
Time," a collection of roughly 175 photographs gleaned from the J.
Paul Getty Museum’s collection of over 65,000.

"We are honored to present selections from the Getty Museum’s
phenomenal collection of photographs," says Cynthia Burlingham,
associate director and curator of UCLA’s Grunwald Center for the
Graphic Arts. The exhibition, which opened last week and continues
until April 2, is complemented by discussions that cover varying
topics in early and modern photography.

"Arrows of Time" follows the chronological and thematical
evolution of photography, considering the development of new
perspectives and uses, as well as new techniques. Each period and
photograph are accompanied by text that explain their history and
importance.

The exhibit opens with the two fathers of photography, William
Henry Fox Talbot and Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, who
simultaneously discovered in the 1830s that silver is
light-sensitive and can be used to record an image.

As their early photographs move quickly from capturing leaves
and cloth to people, they reveal the hassles of the time-consuming,
complicated processes used to create them. A few portraits have
blurry subjects and exposed support stands (used to help a person
keep still) because the person could not hold their pose for the
slow process of capturing the image.

Other photographs deceptively show the subject frozen in action,
such as John Adamson’s "An Athlete." Though the athlete seems to be
in mid-sprint, he actually positioned every limb and muscle,
holding the pose until an exposure could be made.

Mesmerized by this new technology, the public clamored to have
their photos taken. "Daguerreotypomania," a lithograph satirizing
the new craze for daguerreotypes (this type of photography, named
after its creator), shows a line of eager photo consumers snaking
off into the horizon, while entrepreneurs and mayhem clutter the
bulk of the work. The artist’s fear of mass reproduction and
commercialization is evident in the sarcastically portrayed scene,
making this print a powerful comment on the changes in the world of
photography.

With new technology comes new possibilities, which expand in
every direction as you move from room to room. The most drastic and
passionate change that evolves throughout the exhibit is the move
from the objective and natural to the subjective and manipulated.
For example, by the 1850s artists could retouch their photographs
and adjust their lighting, which sparked a debate between artists
who insisted upon truth and those who favored beauty.

The power of photography as truth explodes in the 1860s as many
new uses for it appear. Businessmen, politicians, journalists, and
even the artists themselves began to use photography to sell their
products, ideas, and selves.

An 1870 photo of Old Faithful was used over 100 years later to
persuade Congress to create Yellowstone National Park. The
photograph also developed as a historical document, as the creation
and destruction of monuments, cities, and nations were captured and
preserved.

The most memorable scenes include Timothy O’Sullivan’s "A
Harvest of Death," a disturbing image of Gettysburg’s dead sprawled
on the deserted field, and James Wallace Black’s "Boston After the
Great Fire," a wasteland of total destruction comparable to
modern-day nuclear war.

From this point, the collection looks increasingly inward at the
artists themselves and their ever more intimate and subtle
expressions of themselves and their world. Moving beyond overt
emotions and themes, the photographers incorporate philosophical
paradoxes, such as the influential Alfred Stieglitz’s "The Hand of
Man," which suggests that the machine can be a liberating tool of
art (the camera itself) as well as an oppression.

These layered, personal interpretations of our surroundings
culminate in the final section of the exhibit, which takes a look
at Modernism and Surrealism. Each take the ideas of contradiction
and perspective to new levels surely unheard of a decade before.
The Modernists strove to take ordinary objects and present them in
entirely new angles, giving them a new significance.

Stieglitz photographed his wife’s hands, fingers curving upward
and meticulously placed, as a mirror of her spirit and the idea of
constant and rapid change. Objects such as flatirons and machine
nuts arranged in formation speckle the walls of the exhibit’s final
rooms.

While conceived in the Modernist vein of the unexpected, the
Surrealist photographs delight in the element of surprise. "Spain,"
a moving photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson, shows an average
businessman curled on a tile ledge with one hand over his eyes, the
other tucked between his thighs. Though his clothes signify success
and conformity, the man’s position and hand gestures suggest total
vulnerability and withdrawal. Such a shocking display in a public
place moves and provokes the onlooker.

Unfortunately, the exhibit abruptly ends with the close of the
1960s, leaving you to wonder what new directions photographers took
in the 1970s and 1980s, especially for UCLA students who these
decades as their own.

However, as an insight into the hearts, minds and worlds of the
artists represented, "Arrows of Time" hit its target.

EXHIBIT: "Arrows of Time: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty
Museum" at UCLA at the Armand Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd.
Running now through April 2. For more info call (310) 443-7000.

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