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Vintage color photographs by Joel Meyerowitz


Joel Meyerowitz (American, b. 1946), Pittsburgh, Carnival and train (detail), 1984
Photo Credit: 

Laura Shea; © Joel Meyerowitz - VIEW OBJECT DETAILS

January 11, 2016

The Mount Holyoke College Art Museum will feature two new exhibitions and two collection spotlights this spring, including a selection of vintage chromogenic prints by renowned photographer Joel Meyerowitz, recently donated to the Museum by a syndicate of photography collectors.

The exhibition explores the period of the artist's career following the publication of his influential book Cape Light in 1979.

Fragile Paper Timeships: Photographs by Joel Meyerowitz, 19791989
December 9, 2015–May 29, 2016

In 2014, the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum received a gift of 98 Joel Meyerowitz photographs from a syndicate of photography collectors. More than 30 vintage color prints from this gift comprise a focused exhibition currently on view at the Museum. The donors include Robert and Kathi Steinke, Chris and Melissa Hughes, Earl and Susan Cohen, Frieder Hofmann, Steve Lamantia, Shaun Lucas, Scott Little, Randy and Mary Kohls, Jerri Mattare, Keith Richenbacher, Jeffrey and Jill Stern, and Abram and Maria Roque-Lopes. The syndicate is led by Robert Steinke.

Joel Meyerowitz first championed color photography over black-and-white in the mid-1960s. "[Black and white] expresses light as a matter of intensity," he wrote in Cape Light, "there is no meaning attached to [it]." Meyerowitz's adoption of the vintage Deardorff field view camera in the ensuing decades was motivated by a desire for greater detail in his color work. During summers on Cape Cod—the subject of more than 20 photographs on view—Meyerowitz discovered how light permeated objects and materials." His photographs from this period," notes exhibition curator Hannah W. Blunt, "reflect an interest less in objects than in spaces, or what Meyerowitz called 'fields of force' created by light."

A centerpiece of the exhibition is a group of photographs of land, sea, and sky near Meyerowitz's summer home in Provincetown. These images, part of Meyerowitz's larger Bay/Sky series, explore the effects of light on each layer and particle of the landscape. Also on view are portraits Meyerowitz took of friends, family, and acquaintances (including a luminous photograph of author Norman Mailer) by the Cape Cod shore. While making these images, Meyerowitz focused on subtle gestures and atmospheric variables: the temperature of the light, the moisture in the air flowing through clothes and hair, and how squinting eyes affect the shape of one's face. A number of still lifes and other landscape views are also included in the exhibition.

The title of the exhibition is drawn from Meyerowitz's text to his 1985 photo-essay A Summer's Day, where he described his photographs as "fragile paper timeships dusted with information." The source information "dusted" across these photographs is often as intangible as his metaphor suggests: the vibrations of the horizon line, the sunlight electrifying a mop of red curls, or the illusion of a glass vase dissolving into the misty sky behind it.

Related events:

Idella Plimpton Kendall Professor of Art History Anthony Lee will give an Art à La Carte Gallery Talk, "Color Photographs in a Black-and-White World" at 12:20 p.m. Thursday, March 3, in the Museum.

The Museum also will feature an exhibition of rare Navajo weavings as well as two related collection spotlights.

The Mount Holyoke College Art Museum is free, open to the public, and fully accessible. 

Editor's Note: Electronic images available on request
Contact: Maggie Finnegan | 413-538-3538