Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Regarding Seas and Skies

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Gustave Le Gray captured wet the way Monet caught light. In many of his mid-19th-century albumen prints in the basement galleries of the Art Institute, including The Great Wave, Sete, soft diagonals of beach anchor dark and light zigzagging bands of waves. Halfway up the frame the water--slapping hard in the foreground, glistening as it nears the horizon--meets a bleached sky framed by mottled clouds. Le Gray combined separate exposures of sea and sky, balancing the dynamism and solidity inherent in each. The second photographer in the "Regarding Seas and Skies" show is Hiroshi Sugimoto, whose more recent prints are hung at hip height on one side of a narrow gallery and at shoulder height on the other, forming a horizon line across the space. His almost imperceptible delineations between sea and sky distill Le Gray's abstract sensibilities, trading texture for an even more potent atmosphere and evoking Mark Rothko's faith in mysticism. Irish Sea, Isle of Man is nearly black, and I searched for water or sky without finding my footing. The show also includes works by DoDo Jin Ming. Art Institute of Chicago, Michigan and Adams, through February 15. Hours are 10:30 to 4:30 Monday, 10:30 to 8 Tuesday, 10:30 to 4:30 Wednesday through Friday, and 10 to 5 Saturday and Sunday; 312-443-3600.

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