Young in the art; Exhibition Curated by Addison Gallery Students Explores Childhood Across Generations | Way of life

The Addison Gallery of American Art’s new exhibition takes a fresh look at youth – through impressions captured by photographers over the past century.

What gives the exhibition “Come As You Are: American Youth” its freshness are the eyes and the minds of its curators, the three seniors of Phillips Academy who put together the show.

For Kaela Aalto, Nicholas Picchione and Safi Zenger, students of the Art 400 class, Visual Culture: Discovering the Addison Collection, the theme was obvious.

“After all, we’re teenagers and this is a high school campus, and this is a high school course,” Zenger, of Irving, Calif., told the audience as the show opened Nov. 20. .

The dozens of framed photos in the exhibition encompass a wide range of times, places and subjects.

They include an early 20th-century photo of a lone young girl at work among textile machinery on a New England factory floor; a late 1960s recruit in uniform outside his humble Arkansas home; and a 2005 student in jeans and a cap leaning into the photographer’s lens, appearing both serious and relaxed.

The images, mostly black and white, hang in the Addison Museum Learning Center and will remain until March 8.

The students drew on the gallery’s established organizational methods, guided by Addison’s professional curators, Allison Kemmerer and Gordon Wilkins.

The curators, together with the students’ teacher, Assistant Instructor Tessa Hite, selected approximately 140 photographs from the art gallery’s enormous collection of approximately 15,000 photos.

The students then pored over the photos, reproduced as 3-by-5-inch prints, grouping them according to the shapes and lines, subjects and emotions they recorded.

Very early on, they classified the photographs into categories related to youth: education, rebellion and violence; militancy and premature adulthood; player; rites of passage and young love.

The centerpiece of the exhibit is a photograph of a former Phillips Academy student, “Kevin,” taken by Dawoud Bey in 2005, Picchione said.

The full-color ‘Kevin’ portrait features in several exhibition themes, including education, premature adulthood, rites of passage and identity.

Conservative students relied on their eyes and inclinations to group, position and sequence the images on the walls.

The layout of the learning center – including nooks, a staircase and upstairs hall – has more in common with a house than a prototypical gallery.

The space forms a map of youth, marked by contrast and continuity. Works include some of the most famous photographers of the 20th century, such as Lewis Hines and Ansel Adams.

Aalto, from North Reading, said she and her Tory colleagues avoided overly depressing themes.

Picchione, of Greenwich, Connecticut, said they believe an optimistic approach will help forge stronger bonds with audiences, especially students who visit the annual show.

The Addison has hosted Art-400 shows for the past decade. Previous themes have included ‘identity’, ‘documentary photography versus storytelling’ and ‘journey’.

Aya Murata, guidance counselor and parent at Phillips Academy, said her son, now a freshman art student at Rhode Island School of Design, took the Art-400 when he was in sophomore year. at school. His experience as a curator, taking an interest in iconic art, had a profound impact on him and was instrumental in his artistic development, she said.

Murata recommends the “American Youth” show.

“It’s a glimpse into the minds of young people,” she said.

The photos that have made the strongest impression on the minds of its curators hang on the wall which focuses on violence and rebellion.

For Picchione, the most shocking photograph is that of a young soldier holding a rifle. He stands in front of a tent in Vietnam; displayed on the top of the tent is a human skull.

Aalto was struck by a pair of photographs of a young man from Tulsa, Oklahoma, in bed. In one, he sits cross-legged, like a child, and holds a handgun; in the other, he is smoking a cigarette. A baby lies on his stomach and looks directly into the lens.

Safi was so interested in a photo of a 1959 Brooklyn gang member named Lefty – he shows off a tattoo on his right shoulder (of a character from the Disney animated film “Bambi”) – that she searched for the image.

She discovered that Lefty had died of an overdose.

Ultimately, however, the show visits the possibilities an American youth can afford and the place youth plays in the young and in the memories of those whose youth is past.

“Allow this exhibit to act as a space to explore what childhood means to you and those around you,” reads the show’s promotional statement.

“Come with all your baggage, your memories, your experiences – come as you are.”

IF YOU ARE GOING TO

What: “Come as you are: American youth”.

When: until March 8. Gallery opening hours Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; extended hours on Wednesdays until 9 p.m. when school is in session.

Where: Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, 180 Main St., Andover

How much: Free

More information: 978-749-4015 or addisongallery.org

Kayleen C. Rice