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January 8, 2001


UMBC's Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery presents "Alice Burr, Photographer: A California Pictorialist Rediscovered," a look at the photographic works of an accomplished member of the amateur and professional movements in photography that flourished in early twentieth-century California. The free exhibition is on view January 29 through March 12. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, noon to 4:30 p.m.; Thursday, noon to 8 p.m.; and Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. For more information call (410) 455-2270.

Since the period in which Alice Burr (1883-1968) actively exhibited her work, ending before the Second World War, her photographs have been known only to her family and a handful of curators and friends. Recently, an effort has been made to collect the works which remain from her career, record and study them, and offer them for public view. As part of this effort, the exhibition has been organized by independent curator and writer Thomas Weston Fels, a specialist in American photography and culture, in conjunction with the family of Alice Burr. The prints on view encompass the strongest known works of Burr's career. The exhibition and accompanying catalog provide an introduction to, and a record of, an early woman photographer of considerable interest and merit.

The exhibition includes approximately 50 prints dating from about 1910 to 1925. Burr explored a number of techniques, including silver and pigment prints, autochrome and other media. Her use of autochrome is exceptional. While Burr's photography freqently focused on familiar people and places in the Bay Area, she traveled extensively. The exhibition includes views of Europe, India and North Africa.

At the turn of the twentieth century, and for several decades before and after, artists interested in photography were concerned to advance and protect its status as an art. This dedication to artistic values gave rise to the era of Pictorialism, a movement reflecting in photography the traditional, handcrafted values seen in other media - such as painting and the decorative arts - in the Arts and Crafts movement which was contemporaneous with it. While Pictorialism flourished throughout Europe and America, it was particularly strong in areas large enough for artists to develop the clubs, salons and publications which offered support for their work, such as California and New York. Independent, and oriented toward the artistic development that later led her to painting, printmaking and film, Burr worked as a Pictorialist photographer for only a relatively brief time.

For Burr, who studied with Clarence White during the 1915-16 session of the Clarence H. White School of Photography, these values can be seen directly in the work she produced. Images such as Above the City's Smoke and Dune's Edge illustrate the elegant, craftsman-like printing of the time in platinum and silver. In a Patio reveals the complexity of visual values achievable through mastery of the bromoil process so often used by Burr and others of the time. Prints such as Along the Marina and Waterfront Scene show how the rough maritime life depicted by her contemporary Jack London could be transformed through photography to the imagery of visual art. The Pier and Tree Silhouette exemplify the use of the delicate papers and Whisterlian images which reflect the influence of Japan and its European and American advocates in the fine arts. Burr's many portraits emphasize not only the visual values of her ear, akin to those of Gertrude Kasebier and Mary Cassat, but the usefulness of photography in documenting - and occasionally idealizing - family life, as well as providing a means, through professional portrait work, of supporting the art to which she was devoted.

The exhibition is supported in part by an arts program grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Posted by dwinds1 at January 8, 2001 12:00 AM