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Lightning in a Bottle

MARCH 26 – AUGUST 12, 2005
LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE: Recent Acquisitions

To discover an ephemeral image, capture it, and show it to the world is a task pursued both by artists and collection curators—in somewhat divergent ways. A photographer—serendipitously or following a particular esthetic trail—encounters an image, yanks it out of the time stream with the camera’s click, fixes it on paper, and reveals it. A curator, in pursuit perhaps of a particular artist, working in a particular collecting area, or simply by happy accident, finds an image, acquires it—budget permitting—and makes it available to the public through exhibitions, books, private viewings.

Thus, in the best of all possible worlds, rising from their shared but bifurcating task, a wonderful symbiosis can occur between an artist and a collecting gallery like the Wittliff as they create together a visionary body of the artist’s work. And when that happens it’s like catching lightning in a bottle, like capturing something powerful and elusive and then being able to hold it and show it to the world. Very heady stuff, and certainly for me one of the most rewarding aspects of the curating business.

Ours is primarily a contemporary photography collection, and many of our artists are living, so we’re able to confer with them, ask them which images they would like to see preserved, which images express their creative path, which images, though aberrant, might be included as illustrative of the road not taken—sometimes those are the most instructive of all. We listen to the artists we collect, and we respect their talent and their intuition as we conduct the ongoing dialogs that give Texas State’s Wittliff Gallery of Southwestern & Mexican Photography vitality and dash and a rare immediacy of vision shared by artist and collecting institution.

Because we’ve added so many extraordinary images to the Wittliff collection during the past couple of years, we thought it was high time to share them with you—hence this truly astounding show. There are new photoworks from favorites like Yolanda Andrade, Kate Breakey, Keith Carter, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Edward Curtis, Graciela Iturbide, Russell Lee, Francisco Mata Rosas, Michael O’Brien, Josephine Sacabo, Sebastião Salgado, Rocky Schenck, Erwin Smith, Bob Wade, Geoff Winningham, Bill Wittliff, and Mariana Yampolsky; and spectacular images from artists new to our collection or seldom exhibited: Faustinus Deraet, Héctor García, Annie Leibovitz, Rodrigo Moya, Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, Joel Salcido, Cathy Spence, Jack Spencer, Gerardo Suter, Doris Ullman, Kathy Vargas, and Joel-Peter Witkin. You will see a few historical photos in the mix as well: Rosenthal’s 1945 Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, and a 1906 image of the last survivors of the Battle of San Jacinto.

Lightning in a Bottle runs from March 26 through August 12, 2005.
It’s fun, it’s free, and it’s good for you. Come grab the lightning!

—Connie Todd, curator

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