Color Me New York: Photographs by Benn Mitchell

A flash course in the history of photography, from a practical documentary medium to a contemporary conceptual one, is available in the photographic gallery at the Boca Museum. An evolution in technology is reflected in selections of antique daguerreotypes, albumen prints, lantern glass slides, gelatin silver prints, and cibachrome prints. American life can be seen in black-and-white images of the frills-free living of 1930s farmworkers and 1940s wartime food programs, which contrast with the 1960s and '70s lifestyles of "15 Big Shots," images of celebrities such as Hugh Hefner, JFK, and Jesse Jackson taken by Gary Winograd. Contemporary selections flaunt the minutiae captured by Graham Flint's Gigapxl camera and demonstrate an exploration — or, some might say, exploitation in the case of controversial artist Les Krims' misogynistic, kitsch nudes — of the artifice of staged photographs by such artists as Patrack Nagatani and Laurie Simmons. While this second-floor gallery has previously showcased only the museum's permanent holdings, now the temporary exhibit "Color Me New York: Photographs by Benn Mitchell," on loan from the artist, offers images of life in the Big Apple between 1947 and 1980. Once an on-set photographer for Warner Bros. studios, Mitchell, a forerunner in realistic photography, also trained his eyes on the art within the incidental image. A mural on an apartment building offers an opportunity to study composition and the relationship between life and art when an occupant pokes her head out and becomes Woman in the Window (1961), while Three People in Windows (1957) documents the portal's function as the urban front porch. As his photographs focus on life in progress, Mitchell celebrates his subjects, among them a street preacher, a hot dog vendor, a Coke machine, boys on bicycles, and the Brooklyn Bridge. (Through June 30, 2009, at Boca Raton Museum of Art, Mizner Park, 501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton. Call 561-392-2500.)

 
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