“Proof” opening at Akron Art Museum

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OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, May 29, 2015, 5pm-9pm

How do photographs help to create our collective memory of people, places and events? A new photography exhibition at the Akron Art Museum, “Proof: Photographs from the Collection,” explores this question while raising many others about the tenuous role of truth in photography. Opening on May 30, 2015, “Proof” presents an extensive survey of more than 100 photographs from 50 artists. Ranging from the Civil War to the present, the work in “Proof” is connected by the artists’ shared interest in documenting the world around them.

The exhibition is curated by collections manager Arnold Tunstall, who said, “’Proof’ gives us the opportunity to highlight favorites from the collection, including classic documentary photographs from masters like Walker Evans and Weegee, as well as major series commissioned by the museum from Lee Friedlander and Robert Glenn Ketchum. It’s also an exciting exhibition because it allows us to share many recent acquisitions from contemporary photographers like Jennifer Williams, Josh Azzarella and Barbara Probst, whose photographs question and re-examine the familiar documentary style of photography in surprising ways.”

A major work by Probst straddles the line between staged intervention and documentary proof. “Exposure #106: N.Y.C., Broome & Crosby Streets, 04.17.13, 2:29 p.m.” presents a multipanel photographic installation which captures simultaneous action from 12 different perspectives using synchronized cameras.

“The Probst work reminds us that the framing of a photograph, and the photographer’s choice of what details to include or exclude, can imply narrative or open multiple pathways for the creation of meaning. Photographs translate realities that exist in front of the camera, but sometimes images can be deceiving, prompting us to wonder what is real,” said Tunstall.

The work displayed in “Proof” is organized around four recurrent themes that overlap and merge into each other. A Fleeting Glimpse explores the images of street photography as well as photographs that capture a decisive moment, such as the work of Helen Levitt and Gary Winogrand. The Human Condition shares the work of photographers who use their cameras to introduce us to the lives of others, from social documentary work by artists like Lewis Hine, to images that expand the genre to include the re-enactment of multiple identities, such as work from Cindy Sherman. A Sense of Place introduces work that explores the landscape and environment, sometimes to raise awareness of environmental issues, as in the work of Richard Misrach. Other photographs document a place with intense personal meaning, as in the panoramic collages by Masumi Hayashi.  The Eye Witness displays works of photojournalism, photo essays and recorded events from photographers such as Robert Frank and Danny Lyon. Because they were produced as assignments for news outlets, magazines and as personal projects, these images all express a point of view, providing certain details about their subjects, leaving the viewer to reflect on what has been captured in the image and what may have been left out.

Tunstall said, “We’re excited to showcase work that reveals the quality and depth of the Akron Art Museum’s photography collection, and the work in ‘Proof’ is especially evocative because it suggests rich possibilities for multiple interpretations and varying truths.”

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