Stepping Out

Artistic perspectives

Banish the winter doldrums with a museum outing

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Shake off those January blahs and warm the soul by checking out some of the current art exhibits on view through the area. Local museums offer a wide range of exhibits that are sure to help keep winter in the background for a while. Here’s a sampling.

Photography retrospective at Nassau County Museum of Art

Nassau County Museum of Art has mounted a vast photo exhibition — three exhibits in all — that showcase the history of photography and its influence over the past 100 years.

The three exhibits, which run through March 5, convey photography’s infancy and its development through the 20th century into the present day, culminating with important works collected by Long Islanders. The first floor’s main galleries contain two exhibitions drawn from the Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts collection in Kalamazoo, Mich.: “Ansel Adams: Sight and Feeling” and “Light Works: 100 Years of Photos.” Upstairs, the second floor galleries offer another context. Private art collectors share their personal collections in “New Photos: Long Island Collects,” a selection of important photographic works of the last half century gathered by Long Islanders.

“Photography as a visual and artistic medium, its connections to the sciences and its advancement through new technologies, is an increasingly prominent part of the visual world we inhabit,” says NCMA Director Dr. Karl E. Willers. “Within our society and culture, it is useful to focus on this every-changing medium’s current and historical roles and the ever-growing influence it has upon our everyday lives.”

“We are very proud that we have turned the whole museum over to photography. We didn’t really realize when we were putting this together that three shows would be so complementary and give such interesting insights into photography and history and how it all relates to the development of technology. It’s hard to predict what will be a ‘hit show’ and we are extraordinarily pleased that our museum community is finding this group of exhibits so exciting.”

Ansel Adams: Sight and Feeling

Ansel Adams’ ability to create photographs with a remarkable range and subtlety of tones is legendary. Yet for all his technical mastery, Adams recognized that what made a compelling photograph was far more elusive. This exhibit of Adams’ photographs from the KIA collection suggests how his intuitive and emotional response to the landscape resulted in powerful and enduring photographs.

 Adams is, of course, a big draw for visitors. “These iconic classic, majestic images (25 of them in all) are incredibly moving,” says Dr. Willers. “His technical abilities are so profound. Throughout the exhibit, the print quality is extraordinary and Adams provides great insight into photo processes.”

Light Works: 100 Years of Photos

From Eadweard Muybridge’s 19th-century photographic studies of animal locomotion to Richard Misrach’s contemporary chromogenic prints, this exhibit — also from KIA — spans the history of photography through 39 images. Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Curtis, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Walker Evans, Henri Cartier-Bresson and many other celebrated photographers comprise this survey of photography processes and subjects from 1873 to 2000.

“The exhibit defines the phenomena of how photography evolved and took its place alongside painting, printing and sculpture in the arts,” says Dr. Willers. “The prints from KIA are the most well preserved I have seen. Their quality is extraordinary and that makes a difference in appreciating the full power of photography. These photos reach out and grab you.”

New Photos: Long Island Collects

The second floor gallery space focuses on 13 significant photographic works created from the 1960s through the present day. Historically, photography has been used as a documentary medium to tell a story. Using the malleable medium of the photograph, the artists on view have often enhanced or staged their works to convey a story, create emotion, or otherwise touch people in a significant manner. John Baldessari, Matthew Barney, Robert Mapplethorpe, Vic Muniz, Cindy Sherman, and William Wegman, are among the photographers on view. “We loosely grouped works together that spoke to each other,” says Dr. Willers, citing Peter Beard’s “1 Year Old Gorilla in Rwanda Before the Genocide,” which hangs next to his photo of an ape skull, and Cindy Sherman’s exploration of female social roles in “Untitled Film Still #43,” a photo of a woman in a western landscape in a gingham dress, and “Untitled 278,” in which Sherman photographs herself in Mata Hari-type pose, as examples.

“These photographers explore the way their imagery forms a vision of the world,” Dr. Willers says. “We reached out to many members of the community for this exhibit and made many new friends along the way. We found a lot of wonderful collecters who have been very generous to the museum and lent us an impressive group of works. The result is a wonderful documentation of how photography has become one of the leading arts.”

Contemporary viewpoints at Hofstra University

Politics and modern America come into focus at Hofstra University Museum’s two galleries. “Political Slant II: Editorial Cartoons,” now on view at University Museum’s David Filderman Gallery, through March 12, highlights current commentary on politics and key issues by acclaimed editorial cartoonists.

The timely exhibit focuses on topics such as elections, education, the economy, war, and civil rights. It also includes 19th century editorial cartoons by Thomas Nast (considered to be the “Father of the American Cartoon”), along with contemporary offerings by Pulitzer Prize-winner Matt Davies of Newsday; Pulitzer Prize-winner Walt Handelsman of the New Orleans Advocate and formerly of Newsday; Pulitzer Prize-winner Mike Keefe, known for his work at The Denver Post (1975-2011), as well as Time, Newsweek, Business Week, US News and World Report, The New York Times, USA Today and The Washington Post; Steve Kelley, whose political cartoons are distributed by Creators Syndicate to more than 100 newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, and Newsweek), and Signe Wilkinson, the first female to win the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning (1992), known for her work at the Philadelphia Daily News.

The museum’s other gallery, the Emily Lowe Gallery, (the original site of Hofstra University Museum) also takes a look at what’s captured by the camera lense, in “Danny Lyon: Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement,” which opens later this month.

Lyon’s haunting and memorable images are the subject of this exhibit, which brings the viewer inside the civil rights movement’s early years. It runs Jan. 31 through April 13.

In the summer of 1962, Lyon, a 20-year-old University of Chicago history student, packed a Nikon Reflex and an old Leica in an army bag and hitchhiked south. Within a week he was in jail in Albany, Ga., looking through the bars at another prisoner, Martin Luther King, Jr. Lyon soon became the first staff photographer for the Atlanta-based Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which already had a reputation as one of the most committed and confrontational groups fighting for civil rights. 

The events and individuals that Lyon captured as SNCC’s staff photographer are collected in this exhibit, which brings together the photographs Lyon took from 1962-1964, defining a new form of photojournalism in which the image maker is deeply and personally embedded in his subject matter.  

Nassau County Museum of Art

One Museum Drive (just off Northern Boulevard, Route 25A), Roslyn Harbor.

(516) 484-9337 or www.nassaumuseum.org.

Hofstra University Museum

David Filderman Gallery, 9th floor, Joan and Donald E. Axinn Library/Emily Lowe Gallery, Emily Lowe Hall, South Campus, Hempstead. (516) 463-5672 or www.hofstra.edu/museum.