While esotericism seems antithetical to the act or purpose of art appreciation, hyper-notoriety and commercial success can be equally as destructive for an artist who doesn't have legions of underground hipperati hanging from his coattails. Unlike the Factory or the Dadaists—revolutionary artists' collectives that initially stood outside of contemporary art before eventually melding completely with an elite, fashionable art world—internationally famous nature photographer Ansel Adam's approach to his work was as much technical as it was temporally aware. In terms of modernity and relevancy, the outcome was beautiful photographs that some deem better suited for calendars and coffee mugs than gilded frames on white walls—though I'd say Thomas Kincade has that market covered and blazing with a million cottage candles.
Why it is necessary to prove that Adams, along with being a conservationist and educator, was also an artist is the topic of a lecture by photography expert John Szarkowski at Bowers Museum titled “Ansel Adams: Artist Obscured.” Szarkowski, once the director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (where he helped buoy the careers of picture-making greats Diane Arbus and Lee Friedlander) will set out to explain why Adam's natural inclination towards conservationist activities and projects eclipsed his value as an artist's artist.
Ansel Adams: Artist Obscured at Bowers Museum, 1802 Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 567-3679; www.bowers.org. Sun., 1:30 p.m. $19; members, $15.