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Ansel Adams: Masterworks

November 14, 2004 - January 30, 2005


The Nevada Museum of Art will present Ansel Adams: Masterworks, a traveling exhibition of photographs by legendary photographer Ansel Adams (1902 - 1984) through January 30, 2005. The exhibition consists of forty-eight works from the Museum Set, a portfolio hand-selected by Adams to represent his best work. The NMA will present Ansel Adams: Masterworks as part of its ongoing mission to exhibit and collect works of art which focus on the aesthetic articulation of the land and environment.

The photographs presented in Ansel Adams: Masterworks reveal the importance Adams placed on the visual splendor of natural environments such as the Sierra Nevada, Yosemite Valley and New Mexico. Landmark photographs such as Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, and Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico are included in the exhibition. It is through Adams's photographs that many Americans have come to know these places. (right: Photograph by Ansel Adams. Mount Williamson, Sierra Nevada, from Manzanar, 1944. Collection Center of Creative Photography, The University of Arizona. ©Trustees of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust.)

Adams has long been recognized as one of America's premier photographers. Adams grew up in San Francisco, where he was born in 1902. He was introduced to the expanse of California's Yosemite Valley while on a family vacation at the age of fourteen. At this time he was also given a No. 1 Brownie Box camera. These two events strongly influenced the course of Adams's life. Fascinated by photography and impressed with the beauty of the Sierra mountains, Adams worked with a photofinisher in San Francisco during the winter and returned to Yosemite every summer.

As a teenager, Adams decided to become a concert pianist, but by 1930, after viewing negatives made by east coast photographer Paul Strand, he chose instead a career in photography. His decision to become a full-time photographer contributed to the formation of a new vision in photography in the West. Adams, along with other California Bay Area photographers such as Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Sonya Noskowiak, Henry Swift, and John Paul Edwards, founded Group f/64 in protest to the sentimental and imitative style prevalent in the long-standing, turn-of-the-century, photographic trend of pictorialism. The name f/64 refers to the smallest lens opening on the camera through which light passes: images photographed at this setting yield sharp focus and fine detail of subject matter. This loose organization of photographers concentrated on exploring what they termed "straight" or pure photography. They emphasized form and texture, rather than soft focus and emotionalism, and translated scale and detail into an organic, sometimes abstract, design. By 1935, Adams published his first book, Making a Photograph, which was enthusiastically received. Six years later, his groundbreaking Zone System was formulated, which introduced a way for amateur photographers and professionals alike to determine and control the exposure and development of prints for maximum visual acuity.

During this time Adams also became the custodian of the Sierra Club's LeConte Memorial Building in Yosemite. This experience introduced him to an arena that became a driving force throughout the rest of his life-the preservation and conservation of wilderness areas and national parks throughout the United States. He served as a board member and ultimately director of the Sierra Club and as an environmental spokesperson for land protection before Congress. He also conducted annual photographic workshops in Yosemite that combined the appreciation for the land's aesthetic beauty with technical instruction.

Ansel Adams: Masterworks has been organized by Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, California. Works in the exhibition are the generous gift of Dr. Fidel Realyvasquez to Turtle Bay Exploration Park, a 300-acre cultural complex established to interpret the relationship between humans and nature.

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