Ansel Adams: A Legacy, Gilcrease Museum

Perhaps the exhibition of which I am the most proud from my time at the Gilcrease Museum is Ansel Adams: A Legacy. This was a project in which I was allowed to flex both my curatorial and exhibitions designer muscles. The exhibition was built around a private collection of 138 original prints by legendary American photographer, Ansel Adams. The collection was purchased in its entirety from the Friends of Photography Museum in San Francisco following its demise. The collection was particularly impressive in that it constituted works that Adams himself selected to represent his illustrious career. 

View of Gallery 4

The collection arrived newly matted and framed but without supporting documentation. It was my task to organize the show, develop all of the interpretive content and design the gallery layout, in addition to overseeing the installation and participating in public programs and media outreach. I immersed myself in the world of Ansel Adams. I had a basic understanding of his career prior to the project, but I became the in-house expert for the duration of the run. While researching each individual photograph a hanging order began to emerge. This was inspired primarily by the chronology of the images and their relationships to the various periods of his professional development. The show was originally conceived as a two-dimensional presentation, but at the suggestion of the gallery docents I also included examples of the cameras utilized by Adams throughout his career, and in conjunction with the Education Department staff I integrated an interactive, digital photograph station where gallery visitors could reproduce an iconic Adams still life. 

Entrance Approach

The installation filled the 7,000 sq. ft. Myers Gallery suite and also took in the corridor leading to the gallery’s entrance. Adams noted in his writings that his favorite background color for his photographs was chocolate-brown. I selected a rich brown with red undertones for the gallery walls. The ivory mats and beech frames of the photographs shown against the color and the grays within the images were luminous. I worked with graphics designer, Greg Carmack, to create interpretive panels  repeating the gray tones of the photographs and that also incorporated an Adams-esque background of billowing clouds. 

Interpretive Text Panel

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