Portland Museum of Art
7 Congress Street
Through December 5
In another: A woman-statue in a sepia haze, a paradox of flesh and stone, “chips” nicking her chest and stomach, head and both arms broken off — just sharp, jutted fragments remaining.
The first, a 1932 black-and-white by Ansel Adams, “Boards and Thistles, South San Francisco,” exemplifies the sharp-focused, detail-heavy, aggrandizement-of-the-ordinary inherent in the 1930s “Group f/64” photography movement. The second, the circa-1928 “Fragment” from William Mortensen, embodies the artistic and surrealistic principles of “pictorialism,” a photographic style marginalized in the mid-1900s.
Juxtaposed, the two represent the voracious and, inevitably, medium-altering debate that flared in the 1930s between the old and the new, the manipulated and the realistic.
Though largely forgotten, it’s an argument reintroduced by the show, “Debating Modern Photography: The Triumph of Group f/64,” now on display at the Portland Museum of Art through December 5. Representing roughly 90 pieces by 16 artists, the exhibit contrasts the two mediums to illustrate their sweeping differences both technically and stylistically — and to highlight each one’s merit and intrigue.