U.Va. Art Museum Features Photography Collection

August 10, 2007

Aug. 9, 2007 -- Drawn entirely from the collection of the University of Virginia Art Museum, "Iconic Photography," on display at the museum Friday, Aug. 24 through Sunday, Oct. 28, ranges from 19th-century work by Nadar (pseudonym of artist Gaspard-Félix Tournachon) through 20th-century masterpieces by artists such as Eugène Atget, Ansel Adams and Edward Steichen, to very contemporary works by Lorna Simpson and Joel-Peter Witkin. Ranging from serious to lighthearted, the works on view also represent the breadth of the museum’s photography collection.

Icons, notes exhibition curator Stephen Margulies, may represent human or human-appearing beings, who transcend their individual human appearance because of their cultural, symbolic or spiritual significance. They sum up the most intense values of a period. Icons often represented Jesus, Christian saints, the Holy Family or the deity.

Uniting these disparate images is their “iconic” imagery. Although most of them are secular in intent, they possess something of the confrontational, psychological and cultural power of the traditional icon, an image that utterly focused the devoted viewer’s attention.

For more than 100 years, photographs have conveyed similar power, with photographers using the techniques of their period as part of their meditative suggestiveness. "Since, in general, the inhabitants of the West are less religious than their ancestors," explains Margulies, "iconic photographic images may be non-religious, strictly speaking. Instead they depict celebrities, people esteemed in their professions, politicians, victims and victimizers, people with a compellingly unique quality, people who play social roles as well as 'types' who epitomize or challenge aspects of our culture. Such photographic images are sometimes so powerful as to induce a response as 'spiritual' or at least as thoughtful as the traditional painted icons of the past."
This exhibition is sponsored by the University’s ART$ Dollars program.

For information call (434) 924-3592 or visit the museum Web site: www.virginia.edu/artmuseum.