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Midnight Blue, 1973–74, by Michael Snow (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris: Musée National d’Art Moderne/Centre de Création Industrielle) © CNAC/MNAM/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, New York

Midnight Blue, 1973–74, by Michael Snow (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris: Musée National d’Art Moderne/Centre de Création Industrielle) © CNAC/MNAM/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, New York


Michael Snow: Photo-Centric

February 1–April 27, 2014

Conceived in close collaboration with Michael Snow—one of the most important experimental filmmakers of his generation—this exhibition is a focused survey of the Canadian artist's photography-based work, which has not been the subject of a solo museum exhibition in the United States since the 1970s. Throughout a career that has also included painting, sculpture, installations, and music, Snow (born 1928) has employed photography in unique and innovative ways. This exhibition presents the best examples of his use of the medium from 1962 to 2003.

Snow's "photo-centric" work has been key to his investigation of the limits of representation, especially through an exploration of photography and its processes. Poised between two- and three-dimensionality, a number of works in this exhibition engage physically with the gallery space and the viewer, and are representative of his various approaches to the photographic medium and its framing of vision. According to Snow, "To extend the depth of what has been called ‘art' into photography requires . . . making available to the spectator the amazing transformations the subject undergoes to become the photograph."

Michael Snow: Photo-Centric also explores the intimate connections that exist between his paintings, sculptures, and films as mediated by and through photography. Home to strong collections of modern and contemporary art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is an ideal context for Snow and his work, which bridges the gap between modern and contemporary practices as well as illuminates concepts critical in the making and appreciation of art. His photo-centric work demands and persistently rewards one's attention by activating the viewer's visual intelligence.

Photographic Beginnings: "Four to Five"

Space Made Flat: "In Medias Res"

Seeing Through the Other Side: "Powers of Two"

Main Building

Michael Snow was born in 1928 in Toronto, where he currently lives and works. First a painter and sculptor, he has been intensely involved since 1962 in creating videos, films, slide and audio installations, and photographic and holographic works as well as public art. His work, particularly his experimental films such as the landmark Wavelength (1967), has had international exposure at prestigious institutions and events.

In 1970 Michael Snow represented Canada at the 35th Venice Biennale, and in 1977 his work was included in Documenta 6, Kassel. Major solo exhibitions of his work have been presented at the Vancouver Art Gallery (1967, 1979); the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1970, 1994); the Centre Pompidou, Paris (1978, 2003); the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (1988); the Power Plant, Toronto (1994, 2009); the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal (1995); the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, and the Cinémathèque Française, Paris (1999); the Centre National de la Photographie, Paris (2000); and the Galerie de l'UQAM (the Université du Quebec à Montréal) (2005).

Snow has been active as a professional musician since the 1950s, playing piano and other instruments with various ensembles but most often in free improvisation with the CCMC, Toronto. Most of his writings have been published in The Michael Snow Project: The Collected Writings of Michael Snow (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1994). He has produced artistic projects in book format, including Cover to Cover (Halifax: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design; New York: New York University Press, 1975); and Biographie of the Walking Woman/de la femme qui marche: 1961–1967 (Brussels: Lettre volée, 2004).

The artist has received many honorary titles and distinctions, including first prize at the Knokke-le-Zoute film festival, Belgium, for Wavelength (1967); a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship (1972); Officer of the Order of Canada (1982); a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for So Is This (1983); Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1995); the Governor General of Canada Award in Visual and Media Arts (2000); a Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Metal (2002); the Douglas Edwards Experimental/Independent Film/Video Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association for *Corpus Callosum (2003); the Prix Samuel-de-Champlain (2006); and Companion of the Order of Canada (2007).


The exhibition is generously supported by The Kathleen C. and John J. F. Sherrerd Fund for Exhibitions, Jack Shainman Gallery, and Daniel W. Dietrich II.


Adelina Vlas, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art

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