KMA Unveils a New Exhibition of Ansel Adams’ Photographs

by Heather Joyner Spica, February 19, 2014

Work by the 20th-century photography titan Ansel Adams is so familiar to so many people that it can be taken for granted. Nevertheless, relatively few gallery-goers have seen more than a few images from Adams’ sole foray into the southern Appalachian mountains in the fall of 1948. Sight and Feeling, a newly opened exhibition at the Knoxville Museum of Art, running through May 4, offers up 23 Adams prints, including a stunning portrait of Edward Weston, a Colorado townscape, and a rare still life, as well as photographs from various national parks.

Organized by the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Michigan, Sight and Feeling reveals a level of artistry beyond the technical innovation and mastery Adams is famous for, represented in the exhibit by a glass-enclosed, ca. 1920s view camera. Also on display are the letters sent by Adams from Gatlinburg to art historian Beaumont Newhall and his photography critic wife, Nancy. What’s more, the exhibition marks the first-ever showing, albeit on a monitor screen, of 47 photographs from Tucson’s Center for Creative Photography—Adams’ complete Smoky Mountains National Park portfolio.

Numerous pictures in Sight and Feeling exemplify Adams’ notable ability to make space appear simultaneously limitless and frontal—that is, with composition reinforcing two-dimensional boundaries. His is a dance of both boundlessness and containment. For instance, Adams’ “Maroon Bells, near Aspen, Colorado” (1951) is an almost dizzying scene, with lines and angles going in all directions. The bowl-like banks of a lake reflecting dark fir trees, although in the foreground, appear to tilt toward us, as if holding back distant snow-streaked mountains. read more at