Los Angeles

“Photography in the Fine Arts III”

Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Park

This exhibit, consist­ing of 140 works from 122 amateur and professional photographers, is the third of a series sponsored by the Metropoli­tan Museum of Art, and the magazine Saturday Review. It is a worthwhile experience for anyone concerned with the visual component of experience; as the title suggests, here is photographic art, not the superficial products of those who make pictures as a diversion or those who would have technically per­fect images at the press of a button.

Although not quite the private pro­vince of photography, the remarkably diversified portrait work presented testi­fies to the capability of the camera in this area. Surprisingly enough, some of the outstanding were portraits of ar­tists; Richard Avedon’s Marian Ander­son, Alexander Liberman’s Giacomet­ti, and Michael Vaccaro’s Georgia O’ Keefe. Other approaches to pictorial expression are also well represented. Harlan Thompson’s Broadway After Dark, Robert Boram’s Impressions in the Water, F. Berko’s Red, White & Blue Reflections, and Art Kane’s Bandmaster, illustrate the use of lens and shutter to capture the fleeting im­pression of a scene, color, or moment. In the case of Boram’s print, there is a direct link to the lily pond studies of Monet. Then too, there is the camera as a tool for the meticulous rendering of surfaces, as in Irving Penn’s Egg Yolk, or in Keiichiro Goto’s brilliant trio of prints Beauty of the Junk. This last, in its concern for the quality of surface, is of particular interest in rela­tion to painting. Documentary works are represented almost exclusively by Ken Heyman, whose Hong Kong Street Slum, is a fine print in the highest traditions of its class.

The dominant point of view seems to be a concern for form, both figurative and photographic. The camera contem­plates, and as the photographer builds his images with classicist precision, we see as never before, surface upon sur­face, shape upon shape, sculptured rock. What is absent is revelation. After seeing, what do we know? One misses the works of men like David Duncan, and W. Eugene Smith, in whose hands the capability of the camera to capture a fourth, a human dimension, is realized. This capability is an essential as­pect of the photographic esthetic, and to ignore it subtracts somehow from the status of photography as a profound, as well as a fine art form.

––Monte Hartman