Preparing for Karsh Exhibit - 2

Authored by: Andrew Kear on August 14, 2009

Continuing work on the layout of the Karsh exhibit. There is a whole chest of ways curators visualize the layout of an exhibition before they have an opportunity to see the actual work, the “little-squares” approach is currently my favourite trick.

The process reminds me of a solitary and less ethically-problematic version of Risk, the board game played on a map where competitors vie for world domination. And, as it turns out, the layout strategy I’ve chosen is surprisingly apt because the 100 Karsh photographs coming from Chicago are truly international in their scope.

Of course, the biggies are all here: Muhammed Ali, Martin Luther King Jr., and Albert Einstein. There’s Churchill in Ottawa from 1941, fresh from his whole roaring lion thing, when winning the war was still far from being in the bag. Almost more intriguing are some surprising portraits of somewhat lesser-known figures.

There’s a stunning portrait of Marian Anderson, a singer who in many ways encapsulated the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. before it happened. (Check-out her version of “My Lord What a Morning;” it will send chills down your spine). Portraits of Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre are also included, and show that even the ghouls of Hollywood were debonair, with the right lighting and makeup (or lack thereof). Perhaps the most captivating, for me, is a profiled formal capturing of Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who headed the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb during the Second World War.

I haven’t seen any of the work in the flesh yet; and it won’t be until the exhibition is here in Winnipeg that we can truly examine, and re-assess, Karsh’s famed technical gasp of his medium and his approach to depicting the personalities of his time – personalities that in many cases he arguably helped construct.

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