Pioneering U.S. artists in focus in ‘Group f.64’ show 

click to enlarge Imogen Cunningham’s evocative 1925 photo “Magnolia Blossom” is among the notable images on view in “Group F.64: Founders and Followers” at Scott Nichols Gallery in The City. - COURTESY SCOTT NICHOLS GALLERY
  • COURTESY SCOTT NICHOLS GALLERY
  • Imogen Cunningham’s evocative 1925 photo “Magnolia Blossom” is among the notable images on view in “Group F.64: Founders and Followers” at Scott Nichols Gallery in The City.
Short-lived but, to this day, popular and admired, Group f.64 revolutionized photography in the 1930s with its small-aperture method, unadulterated images and sharp-focus style. An exhibition at Scott Nichols Gallery offers a close-up look at the group’s collective purpose and individual creative forces, some of whom would become luminaries in 20th-century art.

On view through Feb. 28, “Group F.64: Founders and Followers,” contains photographs taken by members and associates of Group f.64, a band of photographers that included Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Willard Van Dyke, Edward Weston, and several others. Van Dyke’s Oakland gallery served as a meeting spot for these similarly minded artists, who, in the early 1930s, organized a movement that would define and deliver a new approach to photography.

Their name referred to a small aperture setting on the camera. The technique produced sharply focused, precisely detailed imagery, and was a development that attracted viewers interested in new and modern ideas.

The group also aimed to represent the styles and sensibilities of the U.S. West. It opposed pictorialism, the painterly, soft-focused, image-manipulating style associated with such notables as New York-based Alfred Stieglitz. It wanted photography to be pure and not based on principles of other art forms, and in today’s world of manipulation technology, the group continues to be recognized for its “straight” intentions.

Group f.64 made its debut in 1932, when San Francisco’s de Young Museum displayed 80 photographs by 11 artists who were either group members or close associates. Group f.64 photographs were then shown in other cities.

Economic and aesthetic issues relating to the Great Depression, along with the relocation of several members, resulted in the group’s disbanding in 1935. Some members continued their careers, to great acclaim.

Presented in conjunction with the publication of the book “Group f.64” by scholar and former Ansel Adams assistant Mary Street Alinder, the exhibition contains about 50 photographs, most from the 1920s and 1930s.

Weston, regarded as a photography master, is a primary presence in the show. Featured images by the artist include the well-known “Pepper No. 30” (1930) and sea-shell still lifes such as “Shells 65” (1927).

The modern-spirited and continually evolving Cunningham is represented by landscapes, portraits and botanical photos. The latter include her pattern-rich “Rubber Plant” (1929) and “Magnolia Blossom” (1925).

Adams, famed for his landscape photographs of Yosemite National Park, also is featured prominently. The exhibit includes his classic nature image “Monolith, The Face of Half Dome” (1927).

Depression-era giant Dorothea Lange’s “White Angel Bread Line” (1933), too, is a highlight. Works by Brett Weston (son of Edward and a major artist as well), Sonya Noskowiak, Alma Lavenson, Henry Swift and John Paul Edwards, among others, also are on view.

IF YOU GO

Group F.64: Founders and Followers

Where: Scott Nichols Gallery, 49 Geary St., S.F.

When: 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; closes Feb. 28

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 788-4641, www.scottnicholsgallery.com

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Anita Katz

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