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January 7, 2002

UMBC's Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery Exhibits Riding 1st Class on the Titanic!: Photographs by Nathan Lyons

Nathan Lyons imageOn view at UMBC's Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery from January 28 through March 16, Riding 1st Class on the Titanic! features photographs by Nathan Lyons. The exhibition presents 200 black and white photographs that reveal Lyons' unique view of America and its social landscape.

On February 20 at 4 p.m. in the Kuhn Gallery, Nathan Lyons will present a public lecture on his work. A reception will follow.

Riding 1st Class on the Titanic! was organized and circulated by the Addison Gallery of American Art, on the campus of the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.

Nathan Lyons imageAbout the Artist
Influential artist, teacher, and director and founder of the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York, Nathan Lyons has exerted a profound effect on the field of photography for more than forty years. He began to photograph in the late 1950s using a view camera to create images that emphasized the medium's expressive rather than documentary potential. In 1962, he switched to a 35mm camera, and along with other photographers of his generation such as Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand, looked to contemporary culture for inspiration.

About the Exhibition
In 1974, Lyons compiled an extended body of images in a landmark book, Notations in Passing, published by MIT Press. This series of 96 photographs is organized into extended sequences that explore the variety of visual relationships and meanings made possible by pictures unaccompanied by text. Picking up where Notations in Passing left off, Riding 1st Class on the Titanic! is a companion publication to the exhibition and highlights work from 1974 to the present. The book is distributed by MIT Press and includes a preface by Adam D. Weinberg, director of the Addison Gallery of American Art, and an essay by Leroy Searle, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Washington.

Nathan Lyons imageThe title of this exhibition, Riding 1st Class on the Titanic!, derives from a particular photograph in the sequence in which "Riding 1st Class on the Titanic" is spray painted onto a wall. For the artist, the Titanic is a metaphor for the ultimate paradox of contemporary life. The ship's fate forces us to reconcile our faith in the power of the manmade with the reality that even the most seemingly invincible is subject to complete and utter vulnerability. It is this ambiguity and contradiction that weaves through much of Lyons' work. Reflecting his predilection for photos that include words and interest in found language, Lyons' images offer layered interpretations that challenge our cultural assumptions and beliefs, yet never cease to delight the eye.

The passage of time is an important factor in the development of Riding 1st Class on the Titanic! While it records a series of cultural artifacts in real time, the sequential structure establishes a contextual display that encourages a reading and an expansion of visual language. A second strategy is the development of a number of thematic levels within the sequence that form a counterpoint to what might seem to be the linear structure of the work.

Text and image are dominant factors that are used with a structure that is designed to intentionally relinquish their traditional illustrative functions -- not to explain each other, but to expand the potential meaning of each. The concern for found language, that public utterance that often embraces a particular expression of anxiety -- spoken, shouted, or whispered to us without knowing its source -- guides but does not control the sequence. The project investigates the relevance of value systems that we have embraced, only to discover that their elusive meanings do more to challenge our belief systems than reinforce them. What we may read into or out of the orchestration of these images, on successive readings, will condition the viewer's ongoing reengagement with them, seeing more at each encounter.

Nathan Lyons imageThe Kuhn Gallery's presentation of Riding 1st Class on the Titanic! is supported in part by UMBC; the Friends of the Library & Gallery and the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Gallery Information
The Albin O. Kuhn Gallery serves as one of the principal art galleries in the Baltimore region. Items from the Special Collections Department, as well as art and artifacts from all over the world, are displayed in challenging and informative exhibitions for the university community and the public. Moreover, traveling exhibitions are occasionally presented, and the Gallery also sends some of its exhibits throughout the state and nation. Admission to the Gallery is free.

Hours of Operation
Sunday: CLOSED
Monday: 12 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday: 12 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday: 12 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Thursday: 12 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Friday: 12 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Saturday: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Telephone and web
General Gallery information: (410) 455-2270
UMBC Artsline (24 hour recorded message): (410) 455-ARTS
Media inquiries only: (410) 455-3370

UMBC Arts website:
Gallery website:

From Baltimore and points north, proceed south on I-95 to exit 47B. Take Route 166 toward Catonsville and then follow signs to the Albin O. Kuhn Library.

From I-695, take Exit 12C (Wilkens Avenue) and continue one-half mile to the entrance of UMBC at the intersection of Wilkens Avenue and Hilltop Road. Turn left and follow signs to the Albin O. Kuhn Library.

From Washington and points south, proceed north on I-95 to Exit 47B. Take Route 166 toward Catonsville and then follow signs to the Albin O. Kuhn Library.

Daytime metered visitor parking is available in Lot 10, near the Administration Building. Visitor parking regulations are enforced on all University calendar days. Hilltop Circle and all campus roadways require a parking permit unless otherwise marked.

Nathan Lyons imageImages for Media
High resolution images for media are available online:
or by email or postal mail.

All images for Nathan Lyons: Riding First Class on the Titanic! copyright Addison Gallery of Art/Nathan Lyons.


Posted by dwinds1 at January 7, 2002 12:00 AM