For Students

U-M Professor Larry Cressman Curates Latest 'Flip Your Field' Exhibition

When Larry Cressman (pictured left), visual artist and Professor of Art in the Residential College and Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, first began to explore UMMA’s photography collection as guest curator for the second installment of the Flip Your Field series, he was immediately struck by the large number of photos of trees. Objects of fascination for photographers throughout the history of the medium, trees are a predominate subject in UMMA’s photography collection simply by virtue of its breadth, not as a result of any plan to collect such images. Trees are also an abiding interest for Cressman as an artist. Though he works primarily in the media of drawing and printmaking, his work has moved increasingly away from the two-dimensional, as he explores drawing as a three-dimensional medium. Many of his recent works—three of which are held in UMMA’s collection—are characterized by drawing in space, not with pencil or ink, but with raspberry cane, dogbane sticks, and daylily stalks.

Cressman saw in the Museum’s numerous photos of trees an artistic aesthetic similar to that which he uses—organic, linear elements drawn from the landscape. He selected twenty-nine of these images and chose to have them displayed in a tight, salon-style hang (pictured at top), rather than the conventional display of works in a row. This enabled Cressman to arrange the lines of the trees like one of his works of art, piecing them together to constitute a visual whole, while also drawing attention to the history of documentary photography and the varied examples of it concentrated on trees found in UMMA’s collection.

The consistent interest in documenting trees throughout the history of photography prompted Cressman to think about other types of creative work that photographers do. This led him to the contrasting display that comprises the other half of the exhibition—a single row of photographs that feature manipulation of the photographic medium in order to express the artists’ unique vision. In contrast to the salon-style hang of the photos on the adjacent wall, the single-row arrangement encourages viewers to engage with the intriguing imagery of each artists’ experimentations and to consider the techniques that made them possible. Together, the two unique aspects of the separate installations draw attention to the range of UMMA’s collection, to constancy and change in the history of photography, to the breadth of possible techniques explored by photographers, and to the role that display strategy plays in shaping perception of the exhibited works.

Photographers featured in this installation include Ansel Adams, Jean Eugène Atget, Paul Caponigro, Eugene Cuvilier, Deborah Turbeville, Judy Dater, Ernestine Rubin, and Barbara Morgan, among others. Flip Your Field: Photography from the Collection is on view December 7, 2013March 16, 2014. Exhibition tours will take place at 2pm on Sunday, Feburary 9th and Sunday, March 16th.

The UMMA Flip Your Field series asks noted University of Michigan faculty members to consider artwork outside their field of specialization in order to guest curate an exhibition using works from UMMA’s renowned collection. This series is generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Bottom image: Sonia Sheridan, Self-Portrait in Time, 1989, digital print, UMMA, Gift of Professor Diane M. Kirkpatrick, 2000/2.15
Third from top: Howard Bond, Procession, 1967, gelatin silver print, UMMA, Gift of Margaret and Howard Bond, 1997/1.541