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Exhibition Celebrates Alumni from The Kansas City Institute of Art
Joe Deal, American (1947-2010). Backyard, Diamond Bar, California, 1980. Gelatin silver print. Gift of the Hall Family Foundation.
KANSAS CITY, MO.- In honor of The Kansas City Art Institute’s 125th anniversary, the achievements of select alumni are celebrated in Thinking Photography: Five Decades at the Kansas City Art Institute at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The exhibition, on view from July 24 to Jan. 2, 2011, features works by 27 KCAI alumni and recognizes the school’s diverse and vibrant photography legacy.

“The Kansas City Art Institute has played an enormous role in shaping the cultural and artistic life of Kansas City,” said Karen Christiansen, interim director of the Nelson-Atkins. “We congratulate KCAI on its 125th anniversary, and we are pleased to host a photography exhibition that features the creative expression of KCAI alumni.”

The exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins focuses on the photographic talent that has been nurtured and developed at KCAI.

“One aspect of the KCAI program that has remained consistent over these five decades is an emphasis on artistic freedom to explore the full range of photography’s expressive potential,” said April M. Watson, associate curator of photography at the Nelson-Atkins. “Thinking Photography means understanding the many facets of the medium as image, object, idea and process. All the artists featured in this exhibition share that common foundation.”

The exhibition was organized by Watson and Keith F. Davis, senior curator of photography.

The exhibition is dedicated to Joe Deal, a 1970 graduate of KCAI who died June 18 in Providence, R.I. He was 62. Deal’s investigation of the American suburban landscape exemplified a powerful new aesthetic: a studied neutrality of vision applied to the most commonplace subjects. A June 22 obituary in The New York Times by William Grimes noted that Deal was “…a photographer who broke with the romantic tradition of Ansel Adams to document, with scientific detachment, a Western landscape reshaped by human hands.”

In addition to Deal, other notable graduates include Thomas F. Barrow (class of 1963) whose long and distinguished career as an artist and educator began at KCAI, where he first explored photography’s aesthetic and conceptual potential as a design major. His central concern has been the curious nature of photography itself: the tension between reality and representation. Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison (Robert, class of 1990)–whose works were featured in the 2009 exhibition: Restoration: Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison at the Nelson-Atkins–are also represented in Thinking Photography. Their photographs, which are unique hybrids of painting, photography and performance, suggest open-ended narratives exploring the relationship between ecology, technology and human responsibility. These are just a few of the alumni who have gone on to highly successful careers as artists, educators and self-employed professionals.

Davis said the exhibition does not pretend to be the final word on the KCAI photography department’s vital and continuing history. “It is hoped, however, that the quality and variety of works on view clearly suggest the importance of this program. KCAI grads have helped shape our collective understanding of the art of photography, and they have played a central role in the leading creative currents of these many decades.”

The other artists represented in the exhibition and their class years are:

Edward A. Gallucci (1968), James Hajicek (1970), E. G. Schempf (1972), Lawrence McFarland (1973), Ellen Carey (1975), Karen Glaser (1976), Chuck Avery (1977), Frank Hamilton (1977), Mark Osterman (1977), Russell B. Phillips (1977), Donald J. McKenna (1978), Jeff Burk (1979), Jamie Tuttle (1986), Dana Fritz (1992), Stuart Allen (1994), Nicole Cawlfield (1997), Raïssa Venables (1999), Allyson Lubow (2002), Ross Sawyers (2002), Jaimie Warren (2002), Cortney Andrews (2005), Jeff Eaton (2007), Colby Sempek (2007), Robert Heishman (2008).

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art | Kansas City Institute of Art | Watson and Keith F. Davis | Karen Christiansen |


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