About 150 guests convened in a see-through tent attached to the Fine Arts Gallery at UC Irvine on Saturday night--the first locals to get a look at some Ansel Adams photographs on display through February. The guests--school types, art types, business types--sipped champagne and cocktails at the tent site, circled the gallery rooms, then shuttled to the student center for dinner and a peek at another selection from the late photographer's prodigious oeuvre.
The photos were taken at University of California campuses in the '60s, when Adams was commissioned by Clark Kerr, then UC president, to produce a "portrait" of the schools. A book resulted from the assignment, as well as 605 fine prints signed by Adams.
"They were in storage in Berkeley, in the archives," explained James Harrod, director of the UCI bookstore and chairman of the committee that organized the show.
"They were just . . . waiting," he added, smiling.
Mothballed for a quarter-century, Adams' campus pictures are studies of the prosaic (cows, horses, fountains, buildings) as well as the arcane (an electron gun particle emitter from UC Davis' cyclotron), and include a few of his signature clouds-and-mountains shots. Winnowing the prints for a portable show was a three-year project for Harrod and committee members, including Barbara Van Hoven, Phyllis Lutjeans and Melinda Wortz, director of the university gallery and curator of the show.
The gallery show is titled "Fiat Lux"--the UC motto, and Latin for "let there be light." After dinner, guests wandered through another gallery, past another 75 Adams photographs. That show, called "Museum Set," is a traveling exhibit sponsored by Pacific Telesis.
The Adams Family
Four of Adams' grandchildren came to the party: Sarah Adams and Matthew Adams, both from Fresno; Sylvia Desin and Alison Mayhew, both from the Bay Area.
Glancing around the packed gallery, Mayhew--president of the family business that prints grandpa's photos on note cards--pronounced the party "real nice."
Desin said that she loved seeing the UC photos for the first time--but that the experience wasn't exactly earthshaking. "New stuff pops up all the time," she said. "After he died (in 1984), it took two years to develop all the film he left."
Among guests were Pacific Telesis CEO Sam Ginn, who flew in from corporate headquarters in San Francisco; UC President Emeritus Clark Kerr; UCI Chancellor Jack Peltason and his wife, Suzanne; Arlene and George Cheng of Newport Beach; Nora and Charles Hester of Corona del Mar; Martha and James Newkirk of Laguna Beach, and Jean Aldrich of Irvine.
Asked why the photographs were hung so low--a good foot below eye level on this 5-foot, 8-inch scribe--UCI staffer Debra Steckel tried to help:
"I asked Phyllis (Lutjeans, who hung the pictures) that same question--I thought, Oh no! Maybe it's because she's so short! But she explained it to me--she said it was because the photos are so small. If you feel like you're looking up at them, it's like they're too far away and it's not as intimate. This way, if you're looking down at them, it's more intimate."