A decade in the works, the Museum of Fine Art, Houston's long-awaited War/Photography exhibition finally arrives at the Caroline Weiss Law Building on Sunday.
Offering almost 500 works by 280 artists, the ambitious project explores the challenging relationship between photography and armed conflict, beginning with the Mexican-America War of the 1840s and spanning to recent events in Afghanistan. Throughout this 165-year history, modern technological advances shape both the weapons of warfare and the photographic equipment used to record their effects.
While the ticketed exhibition will cost non-museum members an additional $18 ($15 for seniors, students and kids), the MFAH is waiving admission to the show on Sunday to celebrate its official opening. Active military and veterans with ID receive free admission as well.
Alfred Palmer, Women aircraft workers finishing transparent bomber noses for fighter and reconnaissance planes at Douglas Aircraft Co. Plant in Long Beach, Calif., 1942, gelatin silver print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Will Michels in honor of his sister, Genevieve Namerow.
Not for the faint of heart, War/Photography is sure to be one of the more controversial art shows of the year, eliciting a range of emotions as viewer get a close-up look not only of the battlefields, but of the countless human lives on the periphery of war.
"We really tried to show that regardless of the culture, regardless of the faith, regardless of the decade, there are certain human conditions and human actions that photographers have been able to capture through time," explained MFAH photography curator Anne Wilkes Tucker said during a preview tour. She organized the show with MFAH curatorial assistant Natalie Zelt and Glassell School instructor Will Michels.
"We wanted to pull together a collection of photographs in which each individual image could stand on its own on a wall of photographs with a similar theme."
Susan Meiselas, Muchachos Await Counter Attack by the National Guard, Matagalpa, Nicaragua, 1978, chromogenic print (printed 2006), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase with funds provided by Photo Forum 2006.
Michels explained hat the museum initiated the exhibit after acquiring what is thought to be the first print of Joe Rosenthal’s iconic image of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima.
As the project evolved through the next decade, the curators sifted through more than a million images housed in archives, private collections and libraries in 17 countries. In the end the MFAH purchased roughly a third of the materials on view in the show, with the remaining works on loan from institutions across the globe.
Joe Rosenthal, Old Glory Goes Up on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, Feb. 23, 1945, gelatin silver print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of the Kevin and Lesley Lilly Family, The Manfred Heiting Collection.
Click to the right for more images from the show.
War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath runs from Sunday through Feb. 3, 2013 before traveling to the Annenberg Space for Photography, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Brooklyn Museum.
Unknown photographer, Japanese, War in Hawaiian Water, Japanese Torpedoes Attack Battleship Row, Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, gelatin silver print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Will Michels.
Peter van Agtmael, Darien, Wisconsin, Oct. 22, 2007, chromogenic print, ed. No. 1/10 (printed 2009), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of David and Cindy Bishop Donnelly, John Gaston, Mary and George Hawkins and Mary and Jim Henderson in memory of Beth Block.
Philip Jones Griffiths, Called “Little Tiger” for killing two "Vietcong women cadre"- his mother and teacher, it was rumored, Vietnam, 1968, gelatin silver print, the Philip Jones Griffiths Foundation, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery.
Mark A. Grimshaw, First Cut, Iraq, July 2004, inkjet print (printed 2012).
Henri Huet, The body of an American paratrooper killed in action in the jungle near the Cambodian border is raised up to an evacuation helicopter, Vietnam, 1966, gelatin silver print (printed 2004), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase.
Cecil Beaton, A Royal Navy sailor on board HMS Alcantara uses a portable sewing machine to repair a signal flag during a voyage to Sierra Leone, March 1942, gelatin silver print (printed 2012), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation.
Francois Aubert, The Shirt of the Emperor, Worn during His Execution, Mexico, 1867, albumen print from glass negative, lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, gift of the Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005.
Josiah Barnes, Embarkation of HMAT Ajana, Melbourne, July 8, 1916, gelatin silver print from original glass half-plate negative (printed 2012), on loan from the Australian War Memorial.
Walter Astrada, Congolese women fleeing to Goma, from the series Violence against women in Congo, Rape as Weapon of War in DRC, 2008, chromogenic print (printed 2010), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase with funds provided by Photo Forum 2010.
Dmitri Baltermants, Attack - Eastern Front WWII, 1941, gelatin silver print (printed 1960), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Michael Poulos in honor of Mary Kay Poulos at “One Great Night in November 1997."
Arkady Shaikhet, Partisan Girl, 1942, gelatin silver print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Marion Mundy.