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Carter museum's photography exhibits find power in size


Big Pictures

Through April 21

Marie Cosindas: Instant Color

Through May 26

Amon Carter Museum of American Art

3501 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth


817-738-1933; www.cartermuseum.org

Posted 7:39am on Saturday, Mar. 09, 2013

Photographic extremes, the large and the small, are on view at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

In "Big Pictures," Carter curator Katherine Siegwarth presents the wall-gobbling extreme in a multigallery exhibition, while tiny 4-by-6-inch Polaroids in "Marie Cosindas: Instant Color" are displayed in a single room, chosen by the Carter's senior curator of photographs, John Rohrbach. The contrast between the massive and the minuscule enhances the extremes.

In the large, Siegwarth gathers more than 40 examples from the Carter's collection that date from the late 1800s to contemporary work. One of the earliest on display is by William Henry Jackson, depicting railroad expansion into the West.

One of the more recent is of a boxer by Fort Worth-based photographer Kathy Suder. Her piece is titled Landscape to suggest that the muscle formation along the pugilist's shoulders is analogous to a mountain range. His spiky, sweaty hair could be the tree line.

The landscapes in both images are printed large, Jackson's to show the railroad's ability to cut across the great expanse of frontier and Suder's to refocus the eye from the violent action to the pastoral configuration of muscle mass.

Manipulating print size also manipulates the viewer. Huge depictions can draw viewers into the frame, the better to see the human dwarfed by the redwoods in Jackson's Mariposa Grove or make them step back, to see the totality of the dancer as she struggles to emerge from her knit cocoon in Barbara Morgan's Martha Graham -- Lamentation.

Enormous photographs have the viewers stepping up and retreating, while Marie Cosindas' 40 small Polaroids have the viewer moving in only one direction: closer.

These shoot-and-peel, immediate-gratification photos, the earliest from the 1960s, have a saturation of color that is almost surreal. Cosindas' masterful lighting and compositions paired with the film's color saturation earned a monographic show at the Museum of Modern Art a decade before color photography was considered on par with black and white for artistic expression.

Cosindas treated her subjects, major figures from the worlds of fashion and art, as she did her advertising products, each a heroic star in a miniature world of her devising. They entice the viewer so close that really seeing them seems to warrant a "Hey! Break it up, you two," from the museum guards. This intimacy is so rarely possible in a museum setting that the small works pay bigger dividends than the big photographs do.

Cosindas, who is 87 years old, will make a rare appearance to discuss her photographs April 18 at the Carter.

Gaile Robinson is the Star-Telegram art and design critic, 817-390-7113

Twitter: @gailerobinson

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