There’s something about a place like Penn that makes you feel like there’s always more to discover. Maybe a secret passageway in Van Pelt (let’s be honest, probably not), or some urban legend dating back to the time when people strolled around in wigs. Or maybe, a collection of some 800 photographs, rarely displayed to the public, by some of the 20th century's premier artists.
That last one, at least, is true, and the new exhibit at the Arthur Ross Gallery (in Fisher Fine Arts Library), “9 Perspectives on a Photography Collection,” is a chance to see a slice of the elusive images. The show, which runs through January 27 and exclusively displays photographs from Penn’s collection, came about after Lynn Marsden–Atlass, University curator and the Gallery's director, asked Gabriel Martinez, photographer and senior lecturer in Penn Design and Fine Arts, to go through the images and guest–curate the show.
Starting in September 2011, Martinez sifted through and documented every photo in Penn’s collection. But, come time for the exhibit, Martinez decided to take it a step further, and invited eight of his colleagues to curate their own portions of the show within the larger exhibit.
So really, it’s nine shows within one, with each co–curator describing their views on a collection of images that speak to their own artistic vision. The effect is one of both diversity and cohesion, with the 90 images in the show working as parts of larger and smaller wholes. With works by the likes of Ralph Gibson, Garry Winogrand and W. Eugene Smith on display, you’ll be blown away by the strength of the images, but also, perhaps, left wondering why such powerful photographs have so often been left in the dark.