Edward Weston's photography is so well known and his influence so pervasive that yet another exhibition of his work, at the County Museum of Art (through March 2), would seem redundant. Except for two facts: The work is so fine that museum visitors never tire of looking at it, and the exhibition marks an important event in the history of photography--the centennial of Weston's birth.
To celebrate the occasion, Photography Curator Kathleen McCarthy Gauss has selected 35 black-and-white images from the museum's collection of more than 100 Weston prints for an exhibition called "Things Seen, Things Known." Focusing on Weston's still lifes and Western landscapes (1929-1945), she presents a nice, tight little show that neatly ticks off a familiar list of subjects as it reveals the continuity of his vision.
In his pictures of vegetables, sand dunes, eroded rocks, tide pools, kelp and driftwood, he effects striking transformations, not by revealing the strangeness of nature but its purely voluptuous beauty. It's no news that Weston can make a green pepper or windswept sand look as sexy as a nude woman, but it's still a marvel.
Weston is credited with pulling photography out of the dark ages of romantic pictorialism into the bright light of modern clarity, but his work now appears to be about equal parts classical purity and romantic evocation. No cool abstractionist, he always picks up the pulse of life as he records the effects of time and natural forces.
Weston wrote of transforming "things seen to things known," a point well made in the exhibition title, brochure and images. Perhaps his greatest strength is in showing us what was there all along if only we had been sensitive enough to perceive it.