Smithsonian exhibition displays images of the world of children

August 18, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- Although their styles could not be more different, photographers Helen Levitt and Ralph Eugene Meatyard do share a common interest: the world of children.

The photographic visions of the two renowned artists have come together in a dual exhibit on display at the Smithsonian's Museum of American Art until Oct. 18.

The Levitt exhibition, organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, contains 85 images from five decades.

Many pictures reveal moments in which the imagination of a child is seen hard at work. In one work, three young boys are seen hiding in a stairwell caught in an imaginary shootout; in another, a quartet of lads is mugging for the camera with theatrical vigor.

Her ability to capture the tender as well as the candid is perhaps best exhibited in her famous image of three children donning Lone Ranger-like masks at the front door on Halloween night, 1939.

A good friend of Ms. Levitt, writer-critic James Agee, cherished the work and later wrote that ". . . the three children are a definitive embodiment of the first walk into the world's first morning."

Although many of Ms. Levitt's images express a detached merriment amid the worn-out world of New York's Upper East Side, others capture moments of humor, melancholy and the day-to-day rigors of life in the city.

The Brooklyn-born artist, now 79, continues to work and still resides in New York.

The exhibit of Eugene Meatyard's work is the first retrospective look at his 20-year career. Organized by the Akron Museum of Art, "Ralph Eugene Meatyard: An American Visionary" consists of 100 photographs by the artist, who died from cancer in 1972 at age 52.

Sometimes humorous, often enchanting and frequently haunting, Meatyard's inventive images are always entertaining.

Blurred imagery, motion, multiple exposures and props are among the tools Meatyard used to create effective and expressive images.

Dual exhibit

Where: The National Museum of American Art, Eighth and G streets Northwest.

When: Through Oct. 18.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.

Fee: Admission is free.

Call: (202) 357-2700.

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