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The Collectible Moment: Photographs
Robert E. Mosher, American, 1939-,Fur-Coated Ladies, 1971 from the Institute of Design Portfolio, Student. Independent, Chicago, 1971, Portfolio No. 4/100
Gelatin silver print. Image: 4-3/4 x 7 in. (12.1 x 17.8 cm), Norton Simon Museum, PH.1971.172. Museum purchase through the Florence V. Burden Foundation
© 2006 Robert Mosher.

PASADENA, CA.- The Norton Simon Museum presents The Collectible Moment, a first-ever survey of the Museum’s photography collection, which was assembled by its predecessor institution the Pasadena Art Museum. Featuring 145 photographs by 100 artists along with ephemera from the Museum archives, The Collectible Moment is the largest and most extensive photography exhibition in the Museum’s history. The exhibition opens October 13, 2006 and remains on view through February 26, 2007. A major publication and a series of public programs will accompany the exhibition.

The Collection - During the 1960s and early 1970s the Pasadena Art Museum (PAM) earned an international reputation for organizing and presenting critically acclaimed exhibitions featuring the work of established and emerging artists. Landmark exhibitions included the first retrospectives of Robert Motherwell (1961), Marcel Duchamp (1963), and Andy Warhol (1971). In 1969, with the opening of its new building on Colorado Boulevard at Orange Grove, PAM distinguished itself again by establishing a photography department that advocated the collecting and exhibiting of contemporary work rather than an exclusively historical or encyclopedic collection. In so doing, PAM stood in the vanguard of a small but determined movement to validate photography as a major art form, a medium engaged with issues that were central to contemporary art.

To oversee this effort, PAM hired Fred R. Parker as coordinator of exhibitions and acting curator of prints, drawings, and photography. Over the next five years (1969-1974), PAM became the institutional venue for photography in Los Angeles. Audiences were exposed to dozens of photography exhibitions, divided between shows organized by the Museum and traveling exhibitions from institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, and the Friends of Photography in Carmel, California.
Parker worked aggressively to increase the Museum’s photography holdings, which comprised only forty-eight works in 1969. From Parker’s arrival in the summer of that year until 1974, when Norton Simon and a reorganized Board of Trustees assumed stewardship of the institution, the collection grew to more than 500 prints. Rather than defining the medium of photography narrowly or limiting his acquisitions to canonical works by established photographers, Parker built a collection that reflects how artists were changing and expanding the medium in the late 1960s and early 1970s: by incorporating techniques such as silkscreen, collage, and hand-painting into their work; appropriating unconventional papers or printing on fabric and other materials; and experimenting with size. Most of the prints in the collection were donated by the artists themselves, or were gifts made by a great patron and advocate of the medium, Shirley C. Burden. Such support was timely given the museum’s embrace of this medium at the beginning of the “collectible moment” for photography.

The Exhibition: Organized by Norton Simon Museum Curator Gloria Williams Sander, The Collectible Moment presents 145 prints culled from the Museum’s collection. Among those whose work is featured in the exhibition are Ansel Adams, Lewis Baltz, Thomas Barrow, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Imogen Cunningham, Darryl Curran, Judy Dater, Robert Fichter, Robbert Flick, Oliver Gagliani, Betty Hahn, Robert Heinecken, Anthony Hernandez, Kenneth Josephson, Nathan Lyons, Jerry McMillan, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Duane Michals, Barbara Morgan, Leland Rice, Arthur Siegel, Aaron Siskind, Frederick Sommer, Edmund Teske, Jerry Uelsmann, Todd Walker, Edward Weston, Minor White, and Don Worth.

The installation will occupy 5,000 square-feet and follow a loose chronological flow with sections that explore non-silver and mixed media processes and monographic concentrations. In addition, the installation includes three complete photography portfolios and a selection of ephemera from the Museum’s archives (letters, brochures, informal photographs) intended to introduce audiences to the photography exhibitions organized by PAM.

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