ALFRED EISENSTAEDT/ANSEL ADAMS at the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West) to February 4. $15, stu/srs $12, groups of up to five people aged 18-25 $30. 416-979-6648. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
The AGO came up with an interesting idea when it chose to show the founding father of photojournalism next to the greatest pioneer of nature photography.
Alfred Eisenstaedt ran after 20th- century photography's new grail, the fleeting moment, a pursuit aided by the invention of light, portable cameras.
Ansel Adams lugged ungainly large-format cameras up cliffs in an effort to capture monumental vistas as timeless and vast as nature itself.
It's an interesting contrast of two great bodies of work driven by vastly different aims.
Eisenstaedt's camera is inquisitive, nimble and on the prowl, showing his rare talent for teasing a fleeting narrative thread out of an otherwise neutral or overwhelming sea of uniformity. Haste (he worked rapidly, on weekly deadlines) becomes a form of elegance, an urgency that helps capture the urban flow, whether it's a Bowery drunk looking for a cheap flop or well-fed kids gracing a ballroom floor at charm school.
There is also a creeping uneasiness at increasing mass conformity and industrialization.
His subjects are often shot from above or at exaggerated Hitchcockian angles, and many seem to be enjoying brief moments of respite before they're swallowed up again by the demands of industry or social protocol.
Adams, on other hand, is best known for his compositional grandeur, a sense of majesty that would tip into bathos if it wasn't for his severe restraint. No one has captured the sweep and depth of Yosemite with more drama, but neither has anyone done so with as much rigour.
This selection of outstanding Adams prints from the Lane Collection ranges from small studies, experiments and portraits to his iconic Yosemite landscapes. Throughout, he plays with natural texture and form in a way that's almost painterly or abstract.
Then there is what may be his greatest work, Moonrise, a pueblo house and cemetery set against the moon rising over mountains - a vision of human dwelling and nature communing in one immensely quiet and understated moment. It's hard to say which artist has the more enduring legacy. Better to conclude that they represent two necessary and enduring visions: fleeting urbanity and timeless nature, side by side.