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Cantor Arts Center chooses photography as an area for expansion
Lee Friedlander, Cray at Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, 1986. Gelatin silver print. Lent by Michael J. Levinthal, Cantor Arts Center, L.8.5.2012. © Lee Friedlander, courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.

STANFORD, CA.- Connie Wolf, the John and Jill Freidenrich Director of the Cantor Arts Center, announces the launch of a comprehensive plan for the growth of the Cantor’s photography program. This will position the Cantor as a leader in the collection, exhibition and study of photographs in the Bay Area, which is recognized internationally as a center of photograph collecting and scholarship. The museum will significantly build its already strong holdings, present innovative exhibitions of work by distinguished artists and be an inspiring resource for students and faculty to learn directly from photographs.

While the Cantor will continue to expand and deepen all areas of its comprehensive collection, Wolf identified photography as an area for strategic development. This focus on photography will enhance the museum’s collection, which currently includes more than 5,700 photographs representing techniques and formats developed in the medium since its 19th-century origins. Development in this strategic area also includes the intention of establishing an endowment for a new curatorship in photography.

Photography has a very long history at Stanford University. In 1872, former California governor Leland Stanford hired Eadweard Muybridge (U.S.A., 1830–1904) to study the gait of horses at the Stanford family’s stock farm, which would later become the university campus. Muybridge began his famous studies of animals in motion by capturing images of Stanford’s galloping horses. Those photographs and many others by Muybridge were among the early works to enter the museum’s collections, and they remain among the most important collections of his work.

In 2012, at the beginning of Wolf’s Cantor directorship, the museum proudly presented the work of Walker Evans from the collection of Elizabeth and Robert J. Fisher, MBA ’80. The critical success and positive reception by the public and academics to this exhibition along with the history of photography at Stanford prompted Wolf to consider furthering the Cantor’s leadership and development in this area.

"As a university art museum, the Cantor is ideally positioned to partner with collectors and Bay Area arts institutions to conduct research and create new exhibitions and programming in the field of photography," said Wolf. "In addition to our increasingly strong collection and our historic commitment to the medium, we have access to the expertise of Stanford's outstanding faculty and its equally outstanding students at the graduate and undergraduate level. Across campus—in the humanities as well as the sciences—we have seen great interest in engaging with photography and will invest in making the collection accessible for study and innovative interdepartmental collaborations.”

The Cantor has significant holdings by artists including Eadweard Muybridge (U.S.A., 1830–1904) and Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. 1925), as well as important works by major figures such as Julia Margaret Cameron (England, 1815–1879), Lewis Hine (U.S.A, 1874–1940) and William Henry Fox Talbot (England, 1800–1877). Additionally, since 2010, the Cantor has made key acquisitions (by gift or purchase) of works by Diane Arbus (U.S.A., 1923–1971), Lee Friedlander (U.S.A., b. 1934), Charles Marville (France, 1816–1879), Lisette Model (U.S.A., 1901–1983) and Auguste Salzmann (France, 1824–1872).

The Cantor’s collection offers excellent opportunities for academic connections, research and direct learning about the making of art. For example, Alexander Nemerov, the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor of Arts and Humanities, guest curated an exhibition in conjunction with his course on American photographs. The exhibition, entitled Hauntings: American Photographs, 1845–1970, is on view through July 7. Hauntings, drawn from the Cantor’s collection, enriches the studies of Professor Nemorov’s students and benefits the public as well.

Major photography exhibitions organized by the museum in the past featured work by Ansel Adams, Walker Evans, John Gutmann, Helen Levitt, Wright Morris, Gordon Parks and Leo Rubinfien. Many of these exhibitions were the result of the Cantor’s ongoing collaboration with The Capital Group Foundation. In addition, the Cantor Arts Center has presented exhibitions organized by other institutions of the work of Richard Avedon, Edward Burtynsky and other noted photographers.

As part of the launch of this major focus on photography, the Cantor’s current exhibition schedule includes two separate exhibitions showcasing work by important and influential contemporary photographers: Richard Misrach (U.S.A., b. 1949) and Lee Friedlander (U.S.A., b. 1934), on view through June 16, 2013. In addition, several smaller exhibitions, primarily from the Cantor’s permanent collection, investigate more thematically focused topics and include Polaroids taken by Andy Warhol (U.S.A., 1928–1987); 19th-century images of North Africa and the Middle East; American photographs exploring the medium’s ephemeral qualities; and the landscapes of Peter Henry Emerson (England, 1856–1936).

In the fall of 2013, the Cantor presents the first major retrospective exhibition of work by the critically acclaimed American artist Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953). The exhibition Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video, on view at the Cantor October 16, 2013–January 5, 2014, was originated by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tennessee, and will be shown at only five venues in the United States.

In 2014, the Cantor will originate two major photography exhibitions. The first focuses on Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829–1916) and the mammoth plate photographs that he took in California starting in the 1860s. On view from April 23 to August 17, 2014, this landmark exhibition is timed to mark the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Yosemite Act. Watkins’s unprecedented photographs of Yosemite Valley were instrumental in convincing the 38th U.S. Congress and President Lincoln to pass this act, the first official step towards preserving the Sierra Nevada valley for public use and a blueprint for America’s National Park System. This exhibition will feature works from three large albums—photographs of the Pacific Coast, the Columbia River and Oregon, and the Yosemite Valley—each comprising around 50 photographs that are in the Special Collections at Stanford’s Cecil H. Green Library. As no other institution retains all three of these integral volumes, this exhibition of the Stanford albums will provide an extraordinary, cohesive view of Watkins’ work as he intended it to be viewed, and a remarkable vision of America’s Pacific Coast in the era of its great expansion, captured with calm even during the menace of the nation’s Civil War. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays written by Stanford curators, faculty, students and alumni.

In the fall 2014, the Cantor will mount a major exhibition of the influential American photographer Robert Frank. Robert Frank in America goes on view September 10, 2014–January 4, 2015, and will feature a selection of works from the Cantor’s stunning collection of more than 170 photographs by Robert Frank, heretofore unfamiliar American work of the mid-1950s. This collection was given to Stanford by Bowen McCoy and Raymond Gary. The exhibition is guest-curated by Peter Galassi, former chief curator of the department of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Galassi is also author of the exhibition’s catalogue. The exhibition will include photographs from Frank’s famous book The Americans together with many unfamiliar pictures. It will be organized both to highlight major themes—politics, race, religion, consumer culture, cars and the road—and to elucidate the photographer’s formal strategies. Robert Frank in America will shed new light on the making of The Americans and open a door to a rich body of work that remains largely unknown more than half a century after it was made.

In addition, Professor Alexander Nemerov is overseeing an exhibition of work by Lewis Hine, scheduled to open in 2016.

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