KAM exhibit showcases famous photographers' takes on U.S. landscapes

KAM exhibit showcases famous photographers' takes on U.S. landscapes

CHAMPAIGN — They're all part of Krannert Art Museum's permanent collection, but landscape photos, carefully grouped, show off America as seen by the greatest photographers in the nation.

The black-and-white photographs in "Capturing Landscape," from the 1920s to today, fill the main gallery of Krannert Art Museum, open to the public all summer.

The exhibition runs through Oct. 20, with public talks and workshops planned in July and August.

The exhibition includes photography by Berenice Abbott, Wynn Bullock, Harry Callahan, Alan Cohen, Imogen Cunningham, Walker Evans, Robbert Flick, Lee Friedlander, Richard Meisinger, Art Sinsabaugh, Charles Traub and Edward Weston.

Even Andy Warhol makes a surprise appearance with photos quite unlike what he's best-known for.

Museum Director Jon Seydl notes that the summer exhibition is the first in several years.

"This is just a sliver of the photography collection," he said. "The museum's collection includes more than 10,000 objects, including thousands of works on paper, like these photographs."

Julia Nucci Kelly had a soft spot for Wynn Bullock's "The Shore" from 1966.

As a photographer, Kelly appreciates the way the artist experimented with the camera to produce the photo. "It's not an easy thing to do. You can see it's an art."

Seydl echoed Kelly's praise for the work: "in this image, you get those inky blacks that are really only possible with this type of print," he said.

A specialist in Italian Renaissance art, Seydl finds the photographs fascinating in their variety.

"These are just spectacular examples of the photography held by the museum," he said during a mini-tour.

Curator Kathryn Koca Polite said the range of photographs shows humanity's relationship with nature, and how that relationship has evolved over time.

"I find it interesting, for better or worse, to see just how much impact we've had on the way landscapes change," she said.

Koca Polite loosely organized the photos of landscapes and cityscapes to show the photographers' deeply original view of what is always there but not always perceived.

From 1929, there are Walker Evans' views of New York City with iconic images of skyscrapers and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Midwestern landscapes include a barn in a central Illinois field by Robbert Flick and panoramic views of the Midwest by Art Sinsabaugh, who taught at the UI and was chair of the photography program until his death in 1983.

The museum notes that some "photographs close in on details in the landscape, so much so that the images become abstracted — for example, Harry Callahan's photos of grasses and water that play with light, shadow and reflection."

Richard Meisinger's smokestacks, towering over a residential neighborhood, show how humans alter our natural landscape.

A photo by University of Illinois alum Charles Traub, who has sometimes returned to central Illinois and Kentucky, shows a wind turbine rising behind a cornfield.

Called the greatest photographer of his generation, Edward Weston made photos of burned landscapes in 1930s Oregon that "remind you of wildfire images taken just recently," Kelly said.

"Connecting people with the art they see in the galleries is an important aspect of the museum's work, so when we have an exhibition like this one, we naturally ask, 'How can the artwork connect to people's everyday lives?'" Kelly noted.

Seydl echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the importance of connecting with the local community, especially in the summer months.

"It's the best part of an academic museum's work, connecting to both campus and the community. Summer is a time when campus is generally quiet, so it's a great time to invite people in to explore," he said.

So the museum is hosting photography chats and workshops with well-known local photographers as part of the exhibition. Kelly hopes they'll inspire museum visitors to create landscape photographs of their own.

The first of these public events, "Capturing American Landscapes," will feature writer and photographer Phillip Kalantzis-Cope from 3:30 to 5 p.m. July 12 at the museum.

The second workshop will be hosted by Krannert Art Museum at Japan House, 2000 S. Lincoln Ave., U. It will feature prominent local landscape photographer Larry Kanfer from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Aug. 2.