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At the Crossroads of American Photography: Callahan, Siskind, Sommer

January 31 - May 13, 2009


The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is presenting the exhibition At the Crossroads of American Photography: Callahan, Siskind, Sommer, which will be on view Jan. 31-May 13, 2009, as a centerpiece of the museum's tenth-anniversary celebration. (right: Aaron Siskind, Jerome, Arizona, 1949, gelatin-silver print, 17 11/16 x 13 1/4 inches, Collection of Barbara and Gene Polk, Prescott, Arizona.© Aaron Siskind Foundation, Courtesy Silverstein Gallery, New York.)

The exhibition will include ca. 150 exquisite images and examines the interrelationship of three photographers who helped define the course of American photography: Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind and Frederick Sommer (who lived in Prescott, Arizona). Although each has been honored with individual museum retrospectives, this is the first full comparison of their work and exploration of their robust exchange of ideas about photography, abstraction and experimentation. Self-taught as photographers, they helped shape the evolution of photography as an art form. Their work is an important bridge between classic mid-century photography and hybrid artistic approaches to the medium today.

This exhibition highlights the powerful role of such camaraderie in shaping photography at this seminal time, before the emergence of a market for photography and before widespread artistic acceptance of the medium. It showcases the amazing legacy of photography in Arizona and a significant number of loans from area collections.

This project also highlights the historical importance of Frederick Sommer, who worked in relative isolation in Prescott, Arizona, yet whose masterful and singular work is internationally recognized today. It has been some 20 years since Sommer's art was last shown in depth here. SMoCA thanks the Frances and Frederick Sommer Foundation, Prescott, AZ for its consultation on and partnership in this project since its inception.

Radius Books, Sante Fe, known for its attention to quality and expertise in photography, will co-publish the accompanying book with the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. It will include numerous exquisite illustrations and texts by Keith F. Davis, curator of photography at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and chair of the Hallmark Art Selection Committee, and Dr. Britt Salvesen, director of the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson (which holds the archives of all three modern photography masters), as well as contributions from Susan Krane, former SMoCA director and now the Oshman Executive Director at the San Jose Museum of Art, California, and Claire Carter, curatorial coordinator, at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

The public opening reception for the exhibition will be February 13, 2009, in conjunction with the museum's tenth-anniversary weekend. At the Crossroads of American Photography: Callahan, Siskind, Sommer is organized by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.


(above: Frederick Sommer, Untitled (Jarred Figure), 1960, gelatin-silver print,10 3/4 x 7 1/8 inches, © Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation, Prescott, Arizona.)

Go to:

Object labels for the exhibition

Introductory wall panel for the exhibition

Wall quotes for the exhibition

Catalogue for the exhibition


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