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Riverside’s Fox Theater: An Intimate Portrait

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Photographer Michael J. Elderman, who has been called “the eyes of Riverside,” has been photographing Riverside’s Historic Fox Theater since March 2005. Now, more than 10,000 photos later, Elderman displays his work in the exhibition Riverside’s Fox Theater: An Intimate Portrait at Riverside Art Museum, with a reception and book signing December 17, from 6 to 8PM.

Elderman’s recent body of work is comprised of documentary photography showing the theater’s restoration as part of the City of Riverside’s Renaissance program. However, rather than concentrating on wide views showing large sections of the building, Elderman has focused on revealing intimate sub-sections of the Fox. Recently, Elderman exhibited photos from his Fox studies at La Sierra University’s Brandstater Gallery.

Where the work at the Brandstater emphasized the transformation and recreation of the grand but deteriorated theater, the exhibition at RAM focuses on artistic composition for its own sake. Textured abstraction, geometric grids, and cast shadows revel in texture, light, line and pattern. Some of the photos depict recognizable objects, but many others are abstracted segments – a gold-leaf footprint, a segment of a fallen exterior wall, or a geometric light shape on an unfinished interior wall.

“The power of Elderman’s work lies in his compositions filled with often-overlooked details that invite you to look closer,” says RAM Curator Lee Tusman. “The subjects of Elderman’s portraiture are the forgotten places of quiet beauty: the pitch black rooms, the patchwork of thick paint on a decrepit wall, and the seemingly-improvisatory nature of cracks and oxidation in the ceiling.”

In fact, this attention to detail accounts for the power of the work to represent the literal and figurative parts of the process of restoring any building, not just the Fox Theater.

Elderman’s accompanying book, Riverside’s Fox Theater:

An Intimate Portrait is a coffee-table-style book that has already garnered impressive reviews.

Included in Elderman’s book are essays on Preservation by Knox Mellon, California State Preservation Officer, Emeritus; a brief history of the uses of the theater by historian Joan Hall; and a critique of Elderman’s photography by UCR ARTSblock Director Jonathan Green. The exhibition remains on view until March 6, 2010. A reception and book signing will be held at RAM on Thursday, December 17, 2009, from 6 – 8PM.

RAM relies on the generosity of members and donors to support its exhibitions, education programs and special events. As a 50-year-old, private, non-profit cultural arts institution, housed in a National Historic 1929 building designed by Hearst Castle architect Julia Morgan, the museum welcomes over 50,000 visitors a year. The museum is open M-S, 10:00 – 4:00 P.M. For more information on exhibitions and events, please visit www.riversideartmuseum.org.

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