In straight black-and-white photography, shadows become integral parts of a composition, rising above their generally secondary status in ordinary perception. This exhibit of sixty-eight images from the Museum’s collection by dozens of the most famous modern masters has no guiding theme or theory, but simply shows us the different ways that the shadow has been deployed—to mirror a subject, to enhance an abstract effect, to create a sense of mystery or moodiness, and to frame or to crop a subject. Once we put concern with the device of the shadow behind us, we are free to look at some great photographs for their own sake. Edward Steichen’s shot of Fred Astaire on stage with his enormous shadow on the curtain looming over him like a gangster’s thuggish bodyguard turns a popular entertainment into a compelling slice of film noir. (Michael Weinstein)
Through February 24 at the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave.