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Clay Center photo exhibits showcase iconic musicians, abstract photography

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Astrid Kirchherr and Max Scheler's 1964 photo of The Beatles in Liverpool is among the works in "Artist to Icon: Early Photographs of Elvis, Dylan and the Beatles," opening Saturday at the Clay Center. The exhibit captures the stars as their careers were on the rise.
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Ellen Carey's "PushPins," a chromogenic photogram with holes, is one of the works on display in "The Edge of Vision: Abstraction in Contemporary Photography."
WANT TO GO?Clay Center photography exhibitsWHEN: Saturday through Sept. 16WHERE: Clay Center art galleryCOST: Adults, $7.50, children $6INFO: 304-561-3750 or free opening reception runs 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday.CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On Saturday, the Clay Center will open two traveling photography exhibits: "Artist to Icon: Early Photographs of Elvis, Dylan and the Beatles" and "The Edge of Vision: Abstraction in Contemporary Photography."  "For ['Artist to Icon'], the images are of the early days for each of the artists -- young Elvis, young Beatles, young Dylan," said Arif Khan, the Mary Price Ratrie Curator of Art. "The Beatles were still wearing suits and had moptops, stuff like that. It documents their rise to fame.""['The Edge of Vision'] is a group exhibit featuring several artists who explore abstraction in art through photography," he explained. "It's an interesting way of looking at it. They do light studies -- how light reacts with photographic paper -- and color studies, exposing how certain colors blend together to create abstract patterns.""Artist to Icon," organized by Seattle's Experience Music Project, features nearly 50 black-and-white photos that show the musicians before their fame shot into the stratosphere. The works come from photographers like Alfred Wertheimer, Daniel Kramer, Astrid Kirchherr and Max Scheler.
Wertheimer photographed Elvis in 1956 as RCA was promoting the 21-year-old singer's appearance on Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey's "Stage Show." Kramer worked with Bob Dylan in 1964-65, shooting photos that made their way onto five Dylan album covers, including "Bringing It All Back Home" and "Highway 61 Revisited." Kirchherr and Scheler took behind-the-scenes pictures of The Beatles during the filming of "A Hard Day's Night.""The Edge of Vision" comes from New York's Aperture Foundation, which was founded in 1952 by Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange and others. The exhibit has 20 single images and seven installations, many being exhibited for the first time, as well as two videos and one audio component.Among the photographers featured are Penelope Umbrico, who creates large photo grids from scores of related images found online; Ellen Cary, who produces images by pulling strips of film through her large-format (20x24) Polaroid camera; Manuel Geerinck, who captures the motions of moving objects on film, and Roland Fischer, who presents abstract views of building facades.Several of the artists, including Michael Flomen and Shirine Gill, work without a camera, instead capturing images directly onto photographic paper. Ilan Wolff uses the Camera Obscura (pinhole camera) technique, turning his van into the camera to create large-scale pictures.Khan said the Clay Center receives notices from various exhibit organizations, which is how these exhibits were selected. "Artist to Icon" was chosen first because Khan and others felt the subject matter would resonate with a large audience. 
"'Artist to Icon' caught our attention immediately. They're such striking photos," he said. "You'll definitely recognize some of them; they're so iconic."Because those are older photos in black and white, "The Edge of Vision" provides a nice visual counterpoint."Balancing color and black-and-white and contemporary and older works, we thought it would be an interesting contrast."A free public opening reception runs 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, and both exhibits are on display through Sept. 16.Khan summarized, "Come to see the rock stars, and then learn a little about what contemporary artists are doing in photography right now."Reach Amy Robinson at
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