A walk through the Portland Museum of Art this fall is an immersion into a hard dose of reality.
The museum is hosting three exhibitions that directly reflect their subjects: “Clifford Ross: Sightlines,” “Walker Evans American Photographs” and “Richard Estes: Urban Landscapes,” in which viewers can experience crashing waves and other natural wonders; early 20th-century America in portraits of people and pictures of architecture; and sharp, colorful cityscapes rendered by a master printmaker known for his hyper-realist perspective.
But the brilliance of all this work is that it allows the viewer room for interpretation. There is no mistaking what these images are. What they mean is the mystery and reward of experiencing art in person.
“Sightlines,” on view through Jan. 9, is the first major exhibition of Ross’s work in Maine. A photographer, Ross pushes the boundaries of experience, technology and scale. He has tethered himself to the shore and wandered into the ocean during hurricanes, invented a camera to capture high-resolution, large-scale mountain landscapes, and made prints so large and so clear they seem impossibly real. Organized by former PMA curator Jessica May, “Sightlines” presents a range of work from the New York artist, all generated at a mountain in Colorado and during a hurricane on the coast of Long Island, New York.
In 1938, Evans landed the first solo photography exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art with a collection of images, called “American Photographs,” that portrayed the country, its people and places. His photos were published in a widely circulated book that became a lasting monument to a particular moment. The images on view at the PMA were made under Evans’ supervision in 1969-70 by Charlie Rodemeyer, and the others are recent prints from scans of Evans’ negatives in the Library of Congress. “American Photographs” is on view through Dec. 5.
On the museum’s third floor is Estes’ “Urban Landscapes,” curated by the PMA’s Jaime DeSimone and closing Nov. 28. Estes, who lives in Maine, is a photorealist painter of cityscapes, and this exhibition presents a collection of screen prints that reflect his precise attention to the colors, lines and reflections of the city.