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Northern Kentucky Collectors of Early Black & White Photos Part of Taft Museum Exhibit

If you’re planning to see Paris Night & Day at the Taft Museum of Art – and you’ll want to see Paris Night & Day if you haven’t already – make sure you make time for a tiny exhibit of photo art owned by local collectors, shown in conjunction with and featuring work from the same period, the early 20th century, when photography developed into an art form.
 
Black, White, and Iconic: Photographs from Local Collections features 10 works by legendary, mostly American photographers including Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Berenice Abbott, and Ansel Adams, owned locally, much of it rarely exhibited.
 
The uniting theme of the show is photography that focuses on the human figure, from portraiture to social documentary, said assistant curator Tamera Lenz Muente. Both exhibits are on view through Jan. 11.
 
Northern Kentucky collectors Cal Kowal and Anita Douthat of Alexandria and Connie and Jack Sullivan of Ft. Wright are among the local collectors that have photos in the intimate exhibit.
 
Kowal and Douthat are both highly regarded, working photographers. Kowal’s work is in collections including The Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Photography; Douthatassistant director of Carl Solway Gallery, most recently exhibited a collection of her photograms, Under the Sun, at the Aronoff’s Weston Art Gallery earlier this year.
 
Portrait of Lotte Lenya (pictured above) by Lotte Jacobi from 1928 Lewis Hine’s Power House Mechanic Working on Steam Pump (below) from 1920 are from their collection.
 
 
The Sullivans loaned Edward Steichen’s Auguste Rodin (below), a photogravure from 1911.
 
 
Muente explained the emphasis on mostly American photographers from the same era (1900-1940) was to “give people a chance to see what other kinds of photographs were being made in other parts of the world by contemporaries of the artists featured in Paris Night & Day."
 
“Some used the figure to create a narrative, emotion, or mood,” said Muente, “while others incorporated the figure as a design element. Still others photographed people to reveal important social issues.”
 
The Kowal/Douthat photos are examples of both.
 
Kowal spent a long-ago day with Jacobi in Boston, accompanying his brother, sculptor Dennis Kowal. A “billion years” went by and Kowal and Jacobi’s path crossed again. She offered to let him buy a print. He chose the arresting, close-in portrait of Lotte Lenya, with her challenging eyes and dark red lips and her head propped on her hand holding a lit cigarette. 
 
Kowal is also an admirer of the metaphor-filled work of Hine, whose Power House Mechanic is muscular and at hard labor, wielding a huge wrench to tighten huge bolts. Invisible to the outside world, he’s hot, he’s tired, he’s struggling, he’s stoic. 
 
Hine actually became a photographer to support his social justice activism, perhaps best-known for his child labor series. “He aestheticized social issues,” Kowal noted. 
 
Kowal has recommendations for viewing both of the Taft Museum exhibits and art in general. “Don’t make value judgments. Good collectors study about work. These artists had fascinating lives. Find out about them,” before you go to an exhibit. 
 
When you’re in the gallery, “Ask yourself what about the work intrigues you – and if it doesn’t intrigue you – ask why.”
 
Black, White and Iconic: Photographs from Local Collections, through Jan. 11. Taft Museum of Art, 316 Pike St., downtown Cincinnati. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission $10 adults; $8 for seniors, students, and teachers; $4 ages 12-17; and free for children 11 and under. The Museum is free to all on Sundays. Call 513-241-0343 or visit the website at www.taftmuseum.org for additional information.
 
THERE’S MORE: 
 
The popular annual tradition Antique Christmas that decorates the museum in historic ornaments continues through the holidays.
 
Lectures and talks continue about Paris Night & Day through December. Muente’s final free gallery talk is at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 11 ($5 general admission includes refreshments.) There’s an artist talk by Barry Andersen at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 4 ($10 general admission, reservations required.) Reservations can be made online at www.taftmuseum.org.
 
Free Book Talk: The Bones of Paris will be 2:30 p.m. Nov. 14, the culmination of a community-wide read-along sponsored by the museum and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. , 
 
David Sider, popular library manager, and Stephanie Cooper, fiction librarian, will lead the discussion. 
 
Reservations required: (513) 684-4515 or www.taftmuseum.org
 
During Paris Night & Day, everyone who shows their library card at the Taft admission desk will receive free admission.
 
Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts
 
Photos provided