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World famous photographers

Andy Warhol, Dorothea Lang, Diane Arbus and more at Evergreen

“Marcus Leatherdale and Unidentifed Men and Women,” by Andy Warhol. Photo credit: ©2017 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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There are two major, world-class photography exhibitions in the main art gallery at The Evergreen State College and the smaller but vital Galerie Fotoland in the first-floor lobby of the library building.

"The Surface: On and Beneath," is an exhibition of nearly 100 rarely-seen photographs by Andy Warhol. Added to this in the main gallery are walls of photographs from Evergreen's permanent collection, including works by such world-renowned photographers as Diane Arbus, Judy Dater, Ralph Gibson, Edward Weston and many more.

Warhol was an obsessive photographer. He photographed his friends, some many times, and he did still life and urban scene photography. His portraits of friends, including such celebrities as fellow artist Keith Haring, and of other people in his life, including people at "the factory" and Studio 54, dominate the walls. Like his more famous silkscreen paintings of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy, and like his paintings of Campbell's Soup cans, his portrait photographs are straightforward and taken with little or no obvious attention to aesthetic manipulation. They are, unapologetically, what they are. The gallery quotes Warhol: "If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There's nothing behind it."

Taken as a whole, the repetitiveness and candor of this exhibition has some of the impact of Warhol's more famous celebrity photos, but they do not compare well. Because, despite Warhol's claims to the contrary, there was much more to his silkscreen paintings than what was on the surface.

To my eye, the other photographs in the show are generally much more interesting than Warhol's pictures. Many of them are surrealistic or simply strange. For instance, Karen Truax's "Paper Dolls and Wallflowers," a photo of a woman wearing a flower-print dress and standing in front of wallpaper with an identical print so that she disappears into the wallpaper and then a face appears where the paper is ripped.

Edward Weston was famous for photos of nudes that look almost like abstract sculpture due to his lighting and camera angles and the position of the models' bodies. There is one in this exhibition of a kneeling figure of ambiguous gender seen from waist down and lighted so that the edges of the figure are dark black, making the image look like a sensuous charcoal drawing with a heavy, flowing outline.

Jo Ann Callis' "Morphe #2" is a surrealistic nude with legs poking through a glass sheet, and Jerry Uelsmann's untitled photo shows two white suits of clothing laid on a snow-covered ground with tree trunks growing out of the arm and body of one of the suits.

Equally strange, and one of the most famous photos in the show, is Diane Arbus' picture of a young boy in Central Park holding hand grenades.

Evergreen is lucky to have these photos in its collection.

The companion show in Galerie Fotoland is smaller but quite impressive. There are 14 photos by Dorothea Lang, famous for her Depression-era photos. The works in this show were all taken in Washington State in 1939 in Yakima Valley, Grays Harbor and Thurston County. This is also a show that should not be missed.

"THE SURFACE: ON AND BENEATH," 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday-Tuesday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday-Thursday; and 12:30-4 p.m., Saturday, through March 16, The Evergreen Gallery Library, The Evergreen State College, 2700 Evergreen Parkway NW, Olympia,

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