Cu­rat­ing the West

Cu­ra­tor of Pho­tog­ra­phy & Vis­ual Cul­ture

Western Art Collector - - CONTENTS -

Oak­land Mu­seum of Cal­i­for­nia Oak­land, CA (510) 318-8400­se­

What event (gallery show, mu­seum ex­hibit, etc.) in the next few months are you look­ing for­ward to, and why?

I’m look­ing for­ward to help­ing put to­gether a tour of the re­cent OMCA ex­hi­bi­tion, Dorothea Lange: Pol­i­tics of See­ing, which closed here in Oak­land last Au­gust. The show is sched­uled to ap­pear in Lon­don and Paris as well as Amer­i­can venues. Lange has many fans in Europe, which I find fas­ci­nat­ing be­cause at first glance, she would seem a par­tic­u­larly Amer­i­can artist. But as we dis­cov­ered in Oak­land, her work as a so­cial jus­tice pho­tog­ra­pher is not only time­less but of par­tic­u­lar rel­e­vance to­day.

What are you read­ing?

I’m re-read­ing one of my fa­vorite nov­els, Lit­tle Big Man by Thomas Berger. The next ex­hi­bi­tion I’m cu­rat­ing is of 19th cen­tury West­ern pho­tog­ra­phy, and the book is per­fect for help­ing me get in an Old West frame of mind.

In­ter­est­ing ex­hibit, gallery open­ing or work of art you’ve seen re­cently.

I re­cently vis­ited the Mu­seum of Pop­u­lar Cul­ture in Seattle for the first time. As a kid who grew up on Star Trek and movies like The Day the Earth Stood Still it was a real thrill to stand in the pres­ence of props, cos­tumes and mod­els that stirred my imag­i­na­tion so pow­er­fully.

What are you re­search­ing at the mo­ment?

I’m cur­rently do­ing re­search for an up­com­ing ex­hi­bi­tion of pho­tog­ra­phy of An­drew J. Rus­sell, who doc­u­mented the con­struc­tion of the transcon­ti­nen­tal rail­road in the 1860s. OMCA holds sev­eral hun­dred of Rus­sell’s orig­i­nal col­lo­dion glass-plate neg­a­tives, in­clud­ing the fa­mous East Meets West im­age of two lo­co­mo­tives meet­ing nose-to-nose at Promon­tory Point in Utah. Though not as well-known as fig­ures like Car­leton Watkins and Ead­weard Muy­bridge, Rus­sell’s work is, in my opin­ion, ev­ery bit as pow­er­ful and vi­sion­ary.

What is your dream ex­hibit to cu­rate? Or see some­one else cu­rate?

I’m cur­rently sur­vey­ing and help­ing to cat­a­log sev­eral large com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­phy and pho­to­jour­nal­ism col­lec­tions which the mu­seum has held for a num­ber of years but has never sys­tem­at­i­cally ex­hib­ited. They in­clude ev­ery­thing from the ar­chive of a color post­card pub­lisher to crime scene and ac­ci­dent pho­tos from the 1940s and 1950s. The ex­pe­ri­ence has re­minded me of the amaz­ing rich­ness and aes­thetic value of such work. I would love to be­gin a se­ries of ex­hi­bi­tions to share th­ese lit­tle-known but im­por­tant works.

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