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‘Family’ matters


That ol’ human condition goes under the spotlight in a photography exhibition spanning more than a century.

Charles Martin February 8th, 2012

Reconsidering the Family of Man
through May 25
[Artspace] at Untitled
1 N.E. Third
artspaceatuntitled.org
815-9995
free

Exploration, career, love and the inevitable embrace of death: binding elements throughout humanity and the inspiration for [Artspace] at Untitled’s sprawling new exhibition, “Reconsidering the Family of Man.”

Inspired by a seminal photography exhibit unveiled at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art in 1955, curators for “Reconsidering” combed through 5,000 images from the Photographic Society of America, as well as from additional images supplied by the Oklahoma Art Institute, before whittling them down to the 100 prints now on display.

The original “Family of Man” exhibition was MOMA’s first blockbuster, according to Jon Burris, executive director of Artspace at [Untitled]. More than 9 million people visited that groundbreaking show.

When Burris read that “Family of Man” was being dusted off for another tour, he decided to crack open PSA’s massive trove of images to assemble an exhibition in the same theme. [Untitled] obtained the PSA collection a year ago in order to scan and build a database for decades’ worth of professional and amateur work ranging in all styles, processes, themes and time periods.

right, Max Thorek’s “Whitecloud”

“The original ‘Family of Man’ was really based on photographs made around the ’50s. Though there were some from earlier periods, it really just represented a certain period in time,” Burris said. “What [Untitled] has is an incredible collection going from 1900 to 1980 from PSA. We’ve also brought into our archives the Oklahoma Art Institute Photography collection that started in the early 1980s and goes to the present.”

A wider range of imagery resulted, but Burris insisted the central element of being human remained intact.

“A lot of the collection is documentary kind of work, what we would call ‘street photography’ today,” he said. “As you get into later periods, you see similarities and dissimilarities. The major difference is the quality of photographs improved over time, but some of the earlier photographs are actually more interesting than some of the images that appeared in the original show.”

 
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