SFMOMA reopens with an epic show of photographs of the American West
When the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art reopens on May 14, its entire third floor will be devoted to photography. That’s more space dedicated to the medium than that of any other museum in the country. Which is fitting. From the start, SFMOMA took photography more seriously than most other American museums. “When we opened in 1935,” says Sandra S. Phillips, the museum’s senior curator of photography, “the great artists in Northern California were photographers—Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange. They weren’t the painters. The important painters who were from here went to New York, but the photographers mostly stayed.”
Drawing on the museum’s collection, California and the West is one of two photography exhibitions that will inaugurate the reopening. Loosely organized chronologically from the gold rush to the present day, the show is epic, its 191 images capturing a landscape that is stunning and bleak, ethereal and gritty. Here is a look at some of those images, selected by California Sunday Photography Director Jacqueline Bates.