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The first major museum survey dedicated to scenes of night in American art from 1860 to 1960—from the introduction of electricity to the dawn of the Space Age—opens at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art (BCMA) this June. "Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art" explores the critical importance of nocturnal imagery in the development of modern art by bringing together 90 works in a range of media—including paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, and sculptures—created by such leading American artists as Ansel Adams, Charles Burchfield, Winslow Homer, Lee Krasner, Georgia O’Keeffe, Albert Ryder, John Sloan, Edward Steichen, and Andrew Wyeth, among others.

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The prizes of a new exhibition at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum are a pair of photographs of the artist at the easel, an aspect of her life and work that she rarely permitted photographers to capture. “My greatest desire for acquiring the collection and still my favorite photographs are two that show O’Keeffe in the act of painting,” said Carolyn Kastner, curator of "New Photography Acquisitions." “There is one each by Ansel Adams and Alfred Stieglitz, which are the only photographers she allowed to show her at work.” The exhibition, which opened on Friday, March 27, offers a selection from the museum’s collection of more than 2,000 photographs, including the newest acquisitions.

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Recent additions of artwork representing medieval Europe, the Ancient Americas, 20th-century photography, and contemporary art further enhance the Cleveland Museum of Art’s permanent collection. World-renowned for its quality and breadth, the collection represents almost 45,000 objects and 6,000 years of achievement in the arts.

The latest acquisitions include a Virgin and Child, a rare 13th-century wooden sculpture from the Mosan region of Europe; a Standing Female Figure, a clay figure representative of the Classic Veracruz period on Mexico’s Gulf Coast; and Just the two of us, one of contemporary artist Julia Wachtel’s first paintings to employ cartoons. The museum also announced the addition of eight photographs by Ansel Adams, a gift from Frances P. Taft, a longtime museum supporter and trustee.

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“Bruce Davidson/Paul Caponigro: Two American Photographers in Britain and Ireland,” at the Yale Center for British Art, is a strange but memorable pairing. It joins the Magnum photojournalist Bruce Davidson, best known for his aggressive New York street and subway photography, to a spiritually minded landscape photographer in the mold of Ansel Adams and Minor White. And although its title suggests some shared expatriate experience, a split quickly develops.

The curators, perhaps acknowledging as much, divide the third-floor galleries neatly down the middle. At times, it seems as if Mr. Davidson and Mr. Caponigro are re-enacting a classic contest in 20th-century photography, a competition between the meticulously technical, landscape-driven Bay Area School of Adams and Edward Weston, and the spontaneous street photography of Mr. Davidson’s mentors, Cornell Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson (who is said to have remarked, “The world is falling to pieces, and all Adams and Weston photograph is rocks and trees.”)

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The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, announced that it will use a series of gifts totaling approximately $4 million to expand its photography initiatives. The museum, which is home to the most comprehensive photography program in the American Southeast, began acquiring photography in the early 1970s. The High’s holdings include American works from the 20th and 21st centuries, images made in and of the South, and the most significant grouping of vintage Civil Rights-era prints in the country. 

The most substantial gift has been promised by Donald Keough, the former president and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, and his wife, Marilyn. The couple, who helped fund the museum’s 2005 expansion, will donate $2 million to endow a permanent curatorial position in photography and support ongoing photography programs and acquisitions at the institution. Lucinda W. Bunnen, an Atlanta-based photographer and avid collector, has donated an unspecified amount that will go to the establishment of a photography gallery. Bunnen is a longtime supporter of the High’s photography initiatives and previously donated prints by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Chuck Close, and Cindy Sherman to the museum. Paul Hagedorn, an Atlanta-based artist and supporter of the High since 2005, has donated $500,000 for acquisitions and the Yellowlees Family, also longtime supporters of the museum, have donated $400,000 for the acquisition of Southern photography.

Michael E. Shapiro, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. director, said, “These landmark gifts represent a transformational moment for photography at the High. Photography is our fastest growing area of collecting, research and programming, and these gifts will ensure that the High can continue our commitment to new scholarship and commissioning new works by living artists. We hope that these significant gifts inspire others to support our photography programs and the growth of our collection.”

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The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) announced that in 2016, it will unveil its John and Lisa Pritzker Center for Photography. It will be the largest exhibition space for photography in the United States. The museum is in the midst of a considerable expansion, which is being helmed by Snøhetta, a firm with headquarters in Norway and New York. The $365 million project will double the size of the museum.

The Pritzker Center for Photography is being funded by a lead gift from philanthropists and photography collectors, John and Lisa Pritzker, as well as generous donations from four additional benefactors. The nearly 15,500-square-foot center will just about triple the current amount of space for photography at SFMOMA. In addition to increased exhibition space, the center will feature an upgraded photographic study center and an interpretive space that will be the first of its kind in the country.

SFMOMA’s photography holdings currently number some 17,000 objects -- its largest collection in any medium. The collection includes works by Edward Weston, Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Man Ray, William Eggleston, Lee Friedlander, and the finest holdings of Japanese photography outside Japan. SFMOMA’s photography collection will live on-site, divided between two state-of-the-art storage vault.

The museum’s director, Neal Benezra, said, ““The new center, together with the gifts to our collection, represent a transformative development for our photography program and for the entire museum. We are extremely grateful to our trustee Lisa Pritzker and her husband, John, and to our other supporters, whose vision and generosity will make SFMOMA a global destination for anyone with an interest in photography.”

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Maine philanthropists, Owen and Anna Wells, have donated their impressive photography collection to the Portland Museum of Art. The gift includes works by Robert Mapplethorpe, Ansel Adams, William Wegman and Berenice Abbott. 45 photographs from the Wells’ collection will go on view on December 21, 2013 as part of the exhibition American Vision: Photographs from the Collection of Owen and Anna Wells.

Owen Wells, Vice Chairman of the philanthropic Libra Foundation, and his wife, Anna, President of the Portland Museum’s Board of Trustees, began collecting photography in the 1990s. The couple initially gravitated towards American artists with ties to Maine, but their collection has grown to include some of the most well-known photographers of the 20th century. The Wells’ collection spans more than eight decades and includes landscapes, portraits and scenes of everyday life.   

American Vision: Photographs from the Collection of Owen and Anna Wells will be on view at the Portland Museum of Art through February 23, 2014. 

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"This is a voluntary migration," the upbeat voice-over explains as the camera surveys a California internment camp for Japanese Americans removed from their homes by the Roosevelt administration in 1942. "It is in no sense a concentration camp."

Those lines jump out at you when you watch "Remembering Manzanar," a 22-minute documentary that is part of the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum's compact but impressive exhibit, "Ansel Adams: A Portrait of Manzanar." The statement is in such absurd contradiction to the sights depicted on film that you wonder, nearly 70 years later, how anyone could have bought into it at the time. Some recent visitors to the museum gasped when they heard it.

"Ansel Adams: A Portrait of Manzanar," composed mostly of black-and-white photographs taken by the legendary American photographer in late 1943, acknowledges the prejudices and fears that led the U.S. government to confine American citizens and legal immigrants of Japanese ethnicity behind barbed wire.

But its main focus is on the personal experiences of the internees Adams photographed. Adams was given two ground rules when he went to Manzanar: no shots of guard towers and no shots of barbed wire. Yet in the eyes of the people he photographed, many of them staring directly into the camera, you can fathom the twists and turns of the internment-camp experience.

For curator Rick Chandler, the portraits were the obvious focus for the exhibit as he put it together. Chandler didn't grow up on Bainbridge and didn't know much about the relocations until 10 years ago, when he became associated with the museum.

"One of the museum docents that I met back then was Lilly Kitamoto Kodama, who went to Manzanar as a young girl," he said. "She is still very active as a museum volunteer and is a good friend."

Kodama, in a telephone interview last week, said: "I'm happy that the exhibit reminds people of what happened, because I think the story hasn't been told enough in the past."

While she's glad to have Adams' photography receiving attention, she points out that some people object to it because it often shows internees looking content. She understands their objections: "It doesn't show how awful it was."

Her own feeling is that the photographs, taken under the constrictions mentioned above, reveal the strength of Japanese Americans under difficult circumstances. Of Adams' work, she adds: "Whatever brings out what happened is a good thing."

Kodama's childhood experience of Manzanar and Minidoka was different, of course, from that of her parents who, like so many parents, tried to shelter their children from the worst of it. She remembers being frightened of dust storms, scorpions and rattlesnakes. "But at the same time, it was fun to have playmates right across the way" — something she didn't have on rural Bainbridge.

From the perspective of adulthood, she finds herself looking at the sheer logistics of this government operation and asking, "How did they pull it off?" And she takes the cautionary tale it offers to heart. "They overstepped the Constitution and put people in prison without a trial," she says. "It could happen any time, unless we're ever watchful on what fear can do."

On a more sanguine note, she points out that the U.S. government, under President Reagan, apologized in the 1980s — and there aren't many governments, she suspects, that would do that.

Chandler's first encounter with Adams' Manzanar photographs came in 2002, when the museum displayed a set of silver gelatin prints from the Fresno Art Museum.

"The museum was smaller and in a remote part of the island back then," Chandler recalls, "and not a whole lot of people came to see the exhibit. I always thought the images and the story were very strong, and juxtaposing the iconic name of one of the world's most well-known photographers seemed like a natural for a repeat."

Manzanar has a particular connection with Bainbridge, Chandler adds, because it was the first destination for relocated Bainbridge Islanders.

Those islanders, he says, were also the first Japanese Americans on the West Coast affected by Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, issued Feb. 19, 1942.

A "Civilian Exclusion Order" was posted on Bainbridge Island on March 24, 1942, and about 275 ethnic-Japanese inhabitants of Bainbridge were sent directly to Manzanar on March 30 in what the exhibit terms a "practice run" for larger-scale relocations that followed. (By the time Adams began his project in 1943, however, internees from Bainbridge had been moved to Minidoka, Idaho.)

Their fellow islanders were shocked; Bainbridge Review editors Walt and Millie Woodward responded with a series of articles protesting the internment, the only editors in Western Washington to do so. Residents promised to watch over property and tend farms until the internees came home, not always the case in the rest of the state.

Manzanar operated between April 1942 and November 1945. At its peak it held more than 10,000 people, making it "the largest wartime 'city' between Los Angeles and Reno," according the National Park Service, which runs Manzanar National Historic Site. Altogether, nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans were relocated during the war.

"Ansel Adams: A Portrait of Manzanar" isn't a photography exhibit in the usual sense. Rather than displaying actual prints, the museum has downloaded and mounted high-resolution reproductions of Adams' portraits of the Japanese Americans he met in Manzanar. It's artfully assembled in the museum's limited space, and it isn't surprising the exhibit has won the Washington Museum Association's 2011 Award of Exhibit Excellence and the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies Award for Exhibition Excellence 2011.

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