The Family

Richard Avedon

LBJ Library
through December 31

When Rolling Stone magazine, pop culture's bible, asked renowned photographer Richard Avedon to photograph key figures of the 1976 presidential election, they probably didn't guess that the results would end up at the LBJ Library, sandwiched between LBJ's limo and Lady Bird's evening gown. But this project, which eventually expanded to feature "73 of the most powerful people in the U.S.," now serves as a time capsule of American politics.

It's ironic that Rolling Stone named the collection "The Family"; a kinship between Cesar Chavez, organizer of the United Farm Workers, and George Bush, director of the CIA, is hard to imagine. But as you look at these "powerful" figures -- most of them, predictably, white men in suits -- you realize that, despite their squabbling, they are brothers and sisters and cousins.

These dry-looking subjects include: the poli-ticians, such as then-former-governor Ronald Reagan, practicing his glazed presidential expression; the union men, fierce and gruff (except for the casual, almost humble stares of A. Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and Roger Baldwin, founder of the American Civil Liberties Union); the businessmen, such as J. Paul Austin, chairman of Coca-Cola; and the lawyers -- `nuff said.

Then there are the stand-outs, the subjects with character: frail but stern 86-year-old Rose Kennedy; pensive, guarded consumer advocate Ralph Nader (set between an attorney and the secretary of defense); tough Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan, looking ready to devour Capitol Hill; and disheveled journalist I. F. Stone, the hippie third cousin of this "family."

The "power" ascribed to these figures is questionable to those of us who try to ignore big business and D.C., and the exhibit made me wonder who would comprise the "family" today. I envisioned representatives of the worlds of computers, entertainment, sports, even fashion, as part of the new guard. Are Bill Gates, Cindy Crawford, Michael Jordan, and Steven Spielberg powerful, or just popular and persuasive? Methinks the same could be asked of politicians. That might explain how a former NFL star is now running for vice president.

Prints from 3M by Contemporary Printmakers

Various Artists

Women & Their Work Gallery
through September 14

The work in this collection is generally conservative in subject matter, a fact acknowledged by Women & Their Work. Being the collection of a corporation, where nudes and "avant garde" ideas might be offensive or distracting to employees, conservatism is predictable. Be that as it may, this show proves that works don't have to be controversial to be good.

Spanning two decades of work by mostly American women artists, the works feature several printing techniques and a variety of subjects in the "non-offensive" realm: still lifes, landscapes, geometrical studies, and pure abstracts. The color and realism achieved are often amazing, as in Jeanette Pasin Sloan's "Sergeant First Class," a realistic color lithograph of a reflective table setting. Elsie Manville's "Bristol Blue" is a great study in the hues of blue; I actually thought it was a photo at first. There are darker, more introspective works, such as Jane Dickson's "Witness," with a woman, barely discernible in night's darkness, peering warily out her window.

In essence, this is a nice collection of realistic and abstract prints by 39 women -- and it's a show you can visit with your grandmother.
-- Cari Marshall

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