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For immediate release: Jan. 24, 2003

CONTACT: Ruta Smithson (609) 258-3763

Abstract Photography on View at Princeton University Art Museum

Exhibition Dates: February 4 through March 23, 2003

PRINCETON -- "Seeing the Unseen: Abstract Photography, 1900-1940," an exhibition that opens February 4, 2003, at the Princeton University Art Museum, will explore the rich history of visual experimentation that characterized the medium’s development under the influence of the emerging modernist aesthetic of the twentieth century.

“Photography was initially invented, in part, to allow the exact recording of the way the world and its objects appeared to a sharp-sighted observer,” notes Anne McCauley, the David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art at Princeton University, who organized the exhibition.

As painters began to reject Renaissance perspective in favor of alternative aesthetic ideas, fine arts photographers also began to break with convention, making images that were self-consciously flat, allusive, and nonreferential. Like artists in the radical art movements of Cubism, Futurism, and Constructivism, twentieth-century photographers experimented with vantage points, framing, and lighting, to achieve the fragmentation of Picasso or the complex intersecting planes of Lissitsky. They also applied techniques borrowed from both filmmakers and scientists, including the use of negative prints, camera-less photograms, close-ups, lens distortions, and montage. The exhibition traces these developments with works by such artists as Berenice Abbott, Karl Blossfeldt, Imogen Cunningham, Gyorgy Kepes, Dora Maar, László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Outerbridge, Alfred Steiglitz, and Edward Weston, as well as with examples of the commercial and advertising photographs found in contemporaneous books and periodicals.

The exhibition is organized in conjunction with Professor McCauley’s course "Masters and Movements of Twentieth-Century Photography," in which she examines the ways photography has been "transformed from a poor stepchild of the fine arts to a staple of museum exhibitions."

Professor McCauley, who joined the faculty of the Department of Art and Archaeology in the fall of 2002, is a specialist in the history of photography and nineteenth-century visual culture. She earned her B.A. degree from Wellesley College and Ph.D. from Yale University. She has taught at the University of New Mexico and the University of Texas, Austin, and since 1988 has been a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. From 1978 to 1981, she was assistant director of the University of New Mexico Art Museum. Professor McCauley currently is conducting research on Edward Steichen’s career in France, and the impact of photography on the development of the discipline of art history.


The museum is open to the public without charge. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. It is closed on Monday and major holidays. Free highlights tours of the collection are given every Saturday at 2:00 p.m. The museum is located in the middle of the Princeton University campus, next to Prospect House and Gardens. Due to construction, visitors should use the temporary entrance on the west side of the building, across the green from Dod Hall. For further information, please call (609) 258-3788, or visit our web site at www.princetonartmuseum.org.