December 26, 2013

J. Paul Getty Museum Showcases Photographs by One of the Most Iconic Photographers of the Twentieth Century

In Focus: Ansel Adams 
At the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center

March 18-July 20, 2014


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Melissa Abraham
Getty Communications
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LOS ANGELES—In Focus: Ansel Adams, on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum, at the Getty Center, March 18-July 20, 2014, offers a close-up look at some of the renowned photographer’s favorite images from his distinguished career of over six decades.  Organized by Karen Hellman, assistant curator in the Department of Photographs at the Getty Museum, this will be the first exhibition of Adams’ work at the Getty Museum and marks the thirtieth anniversary of his death.

The exhibition is the result of a 2011 donation of an Ansel Adams Museum Set of twenty-five photographs by Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin. The set was originally purchased directly from the Weston Gallery in 1981 by Leonard and Marjorie Vernon, Carol Vernon’s parents, and the donation is made in their honor. 

“We are extremely grateful to Carol and Bob for their generous donation to the Museum, which nicely complements works by Adams already in our collection,” said Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “By sharing these remarkable prints, we get a richer understanding of Adams’ selection process, and a special opportunity to view images the artist considered among his very finest work.”

One of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century, Ansel Adams (1902–1984) was a master maker of photographic prints who inspired a wide appreciation for the medium as an art form and for wilderness as a national treasure. His images gained widespread recognition beginning in the 1940s, and his name became synonymous with a certain style of landscape photography that was instantly recognizable—large-format negatives, sharp focus, and no re-touching or manipulation in the darkroom.

Adams also was innovative in envisioning the future legacy of his archive. In 1979, towards the end of his career, Adams initiated the production of what he entitled The Museum Set Edition of Fine Prints, begun with the help of Maggi Weston at the Weston Gallery in Carmel, California. From thousands of negatives, the photographer selected just seventy images of his work that he himself would print. The “complete” Museum Set includes images from the beginning to the end of his career, both the earliest from 1921 and the latest from 1968 are of Yosemite Valley. 

Collectors could purchase a “complete” set of all seventy prints, or they could pick their own set of twenty-five images from those offered, on the condition that they eventually donate the set to a museum or educational institution. Adams intended to make one hundred sets in total, but died in 1984 before he reached that goal. Assembled and printed by the photographer at the end of his extraordinary career, the Museum Sets offer an understanding of how Adams reflected back on his work in order to shape its future reception.

In this exhibition, Museum Set photographs are placed beside prints from the Getty Museum’s collection made earlier in the photographer’s career, providing a unique opportunity to observe how Adams’ printing style evolved over the decades.

“The Museum Set works in the Getty exhibition are compelling, not only because they are some of the last photographs Adams produced, but because they provide a fascinating juxtaposition with prints made at other points in his career,” explains Hellman. “From the beginning, Adams actively promoted his work by making portfolios. After he joined the Sierra Club in 1919, Adams became the official photographer for the club’s hiking trips and created albums of these images for sale to club members. Between 1948 and 1976, he published seven other limited edition portfolios that were highly praised."

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The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations:  the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

The J. Paul Getty Museum collects in seven distinct areas, including Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture and decorative arts, and photographs gathered internationally. The Museum’s mission is to make the collection meaningful and attractive to a broad audience by presenting and interpreting the works of art through educational programs, special exhibitions, publications, conservation, and research.

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