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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Haggerty Museum of Art's Bold 'Truth'

Art Review

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Unlike the many photo exhibits that fill galleries with tiny, squint-inducing muted prints with more mat and frame than intricate detail, the Haggerty Museum of Art's "The Truth Is Not in the Mirror" opts for big, bold, bright and clear full-color portraits.

The exhibit dips into both studio portraiture and slice-of-life vignettes. The subjects are young and old and include many ethnicities. They come from all walks of life: immigrants on stoops and at major street intersections in ethnic neighborhoods; Americans at county fairs; Australian drag racers; actors portraying Iraqi war combatants; Gambian villagers; Russian art museum security guards; Blacksploitation models; and athletes, doctors, preachers and students.

The attitudes, approaches and situations produce a menagerie of gazes, glances, looks, poses, postures and stares—so many, in fact, they could be the foundation for a lesson on "101 ways to look at a camera."

The photos typically stand 3 to 4 feet high (or higher). They're large and bold, featuring complex human subjects with powerful, expressive eyes. They are freshly captured—sharp, clear, bright, high quality—and aimed all around the gallery space.

The exhibit also collects powerful color schemes in the assembled works. The photographs burst with strong colors—red leather upholstery, frilly pink princess trappings and bright diva dresses, fresh green leaves and muted off-green 1970s interiors, robin's-egg blue motel walls and bright neon-blue cocktails, tall white heels, misty gray horizons and thick drag-race smoke, dark chocolate brown mud and black shadowy darkness.

The exhibit draws on loans and donations from photo collections in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, and includes nearly two-dozen photographers from Australia, England, France, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as many Americans.

"The Truth Is Not in the Mirror: Photography and a Constructed Identity" is on display through May 22 at Marquette University's Haggerty Museum of Art (530 N 13th St.).
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