Painter Georgia O’Keeffe and photographer Ansel Adams first met in 1929, and in the years that followed they occasionally shared subject matter—both, for instance, were inspired by the same adobe church in Taos, N. M. More often, though, they just regarded nature with equally hot-blooded gazes, even if Adams’ lush tree roots and leaves have nothing on O’Keeffe’s highly sexualized flowers. The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s “Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: Natural Affinities” doesn’t make a big clanging noise about such intersections; it wastes little effort trying to match the artists petal for petal or pueblo for pueblo. Instead, the spare gallery space keeps the artists at a distance from each other, inviting visitors to make looser metaphorical connections. Adams’ curled dunes and snowdrifts, echoed by O’Keeffe’s curved rocks and shells, make clear that what the two mostly had in common was a need to seek out the essence of a wilderness that constantly surprised and humbled them.
THE EXHIBITION IS ON VIEW FROM 11:30 A.M. TO 7 P.M. DAILY TO SUNDAY, JAN. 4, 2009, AT THE SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM, 8TH AND F ST. NW. FREE. (202) 633-1000.