I knew the Ansel Adams photographs would be perfect. And I knew the Eiteljorg – the downtown Indianapolis museum known for its focus on the American West – was the perfect place to display them.
As I walked across the lawn from the perfect parking spot, it also just happened to be sunny and 72 degrees … perfect weather.
But when I laid aside my $12 and entered the spartan exhibit, it was the imperfections of Adams’ frayed notebooks, early prints of iconic photographs and own words about his work that struck me. The 80 photographs in the exhibit represent what Adams believed were the best of his best.
Think about every time you see an Adams image: it’s a bold black and white icon of stillness sequestered in the middle of a clean room of paper of metal. Ansel Adams’ works are masterpieces and, as such, remain a tightly controlled brand 30 years after his death. I guess that’s why it was so refreshing to see evidence that Adams drug around scratched suitcases full of ancient metal lenses, cameras that resembled accordians and bulky tripods that could hoist a box truck.
I also didn’t expect to see multiple prints from the same negative on different media or from different points of a career that spanned more than 50 years. The selections cover the vast spaces of the American West, ranging from Yosemite to the Pacific Coast, the Southwest, Alaska, Hawaii and the Northwest. Referred to as “The Museum Set,” the exhibit includes many of Adams’ most famous and best-loved photographs, including architectural studies, portraits and magnificent landscapes. Film clips in the gallery will give perspective to the artist’s life, helping visitors understand how he worked and what inspired him. The images are joined by vintage prints from a private collection – including representations from Adams’ first published portfolios from the late 1920s.
On display now through August 3 at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. The museum is located in Downtown Indianapolis’ White River State Park, at 500 West Washington, Indianapolis, IN 46204. For general information about the museum and to learn more about exhibits and events, call 317.636.WEST (9378) or visit www.eiteljorg.org.