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University of Iowa News Release

March 25, 2005

photo: Simen Johan, Untitled #95, 2001, Type C print, 40 x 40 inches, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York © Simen Johan

Melodrama In Photography Is Focus Of Exhibition At UI Museum Of Art

The University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA) will present "Acting Out: Invented Melodrama in Contemporary Photography," an exhibition that identifies melodrama as a major theme in contemporary fine art photography, April 7-June 5 in the museum's North Gallery.

A lecture and reception to celebrate the opening of the exhibition will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 7, in the UIMA.

The lecture by Abigail Solomon-Godeau, professor of art at the University of California, Santa Barbara, will address "The Face of Difference: Gender, Race and the Politics of Representation." A scholar of photography and contemporary art, Solomon-Godeau is the author of "Photography at the Dock: Essays on Photographic History, Institutions and Practices." A cookie-and-punch reception will follow her lecture.

Exhibition curator Kathleen Edwards will lead a free public tour of "Acting Out" at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 17.

"Acting Out" focuses on the enduring presence of melodrama in fine art photography. In the exhibition, 32 photographs by 14 artists make use of the long-standing language of melodrama inspired by literature, theatre, cinema, television, advertising, film stills, photojournalism and historic photography.

Some of the photographs in "Acting Out" refer to memorable media images. "Untitled" by Israeli artist Adi Nes, for example, mimics the intensity of a famous photograph taken by John Filo during the violence at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, while it also alludes to the current crisis in the Middle East.

"Many of the photographs in the exhibition strive to critique the status quo and challenge societal archetypes," noted Edwards, who is curator of prints, drawings, photographs and new media at the UIMA.

Narrative structures provide a popular format for many of the photographs in the exhibition. For example, Yinka Shonibare's installation "Dorian Gray" depicts Shonibare in the guise of Oscar Wilde's self-indulgent character, and the dream-world scenarios invented by German artist Janaina Tschape find their inspiration in science fiction.

"Melodrama is a time-honored system for making sense of experience," Edwards said. "Facial expressions, gestures and atmosphere work as signs that appeal to the emotions of the viewer and offer ways to recognize feelings."

Other artists represented in "Acting Out" include Gregory Crewdson, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Cindy Sherman and Jeff Wall.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 62-page catalogue with 40 color and black-and-white reproductions, distributed by the University of Washington Press.

After its stay in the UIMA, "Acting Out" will be on display at the Neuberger Museum of Art at the State University of New York at Purchase, Sept. 4-Dec. 31.

Solomon-Godeau is also the author of "Male Trouble: A Crisis in Representation." She is currently completing a book entitled "The Face of Difference: Gender, Race and the Politics of Self Representation." Her essays on photography, contemporary art, 19th century art and visual culture have been widely anthologized and translated into many foreign languages.

The UI Museum of Art, located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City, is open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and noon to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Admission is free. Public metered parking is available in UI parking lots west and north of the museum.

For more information on the UI Museum of Art visit on the World Wide Web. Information on other UI arts events is available at To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072,; Writer: Krystle Johnson

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