In the ample space provided, it is possible to trace the development of photography since 1840 by looking at dog pictures only - a novel experience.
Aesthetic and technical developments are emphasized in more than half the show, general themes about canine-human relations are featured in the rest, from 1980 onward. Certainly this display gives insights into our changing attitudes toward dogs over a long time span. Informative texts and catchy quotations line the walls.
Fortunately the exhibit is not overwhelmed by familiar photos by familiar photographers. The anonymous pictures from many periods and countries have especially strong appeal. That is a good thing, because this show makes its appeal on grounds other than pure aesthetics and thus can be expected to take more notice of life than art.
These pictures show dogs as heroes, helpers, symbols and soul mates. Of course, some of these renditions are nearly just cute, but they do skirt that pitfall, usually.
This display of 200-plus items begins as the status of the dog changes from work animal to household pet and finds no less of a staunch advocate for more humane treatment of canines than Queen Victoria. Aside from the many cunning anonymous photos from the 1920s and '30s and relatively little-known pictures by a bevy of major photographers who provide wonderfully storytelling images of man's best friend, one of the show's most interesting sections is devoted to "The Dog as Hero," recognized as such by soldiers, explorers, adventurers, and by rescue teams in New York on Sept. 11.
Such images of valor contribute much to the uplifting mood of the display. And the walls are dotted with appropriate quotes such as, "The eyes of an animal have the power to speak a great language" by Martin Berber.
An appendage to this main exhibit is a special show of photos of pet dogs gathered from Wilmington-area dog owners, "Mutt Shots: A Photographic Collage of Community Canines."
Delaware Art Museum, at First USA Riverfront Arts Center, 800 S. Madison St., Wilmington. Both shows to May 4. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Wednesdays 10-9, Saturdays 10-5, Sundays 1-5. 302-571-9590.
Haverford College. How can an exhibit be made that is not based on the viewer's ordinary way of seeing the world? Yikwon Peter Kim has an interesting answer for this. We live in a death-denying culture. And he seems to be making his bid to change this by his installations at Haverford College honoring his late parents.
Kim, a Korean-born Philadelphia sculptor, an ex-G.I. who served in a U.S. Army armored unit, has a postgraduate degree in art from the University of Pennsylvania and is now balancing his professional art career with work as a Haverford College carpenter.
His installations are about memory. Using blocks of wood that he fits together, often bound tightly with lengths of wire, he works abstractly yet tries to link the experience of art to those of daily life. What such work contains is the feeling behind the complicated response to death as direct "inherited" experience. For many reasons, Kim's work denies sedate enjoyment. But mainly it is discomforting because of its subject matter.
His large wall piece, Incarnation II, a work in progress since 1996, is Kim's tribute to his mother. A more compact piece honors his father. Such work demands maximum attention from the viewer if the shared experience of grief and suffering are not to be wasted.
Incarnation II, the dominant piece on view, permits the play of feelings while including or considering the limitations of reality itself. Here, the dozens of open, small, box-like wooden forms hung on one whole wall represent the artist sorrowfully feeling his loss.
The wires strung across openings of each box show the seemingly cramped and incomplete response he is able to give to those deep feelings. By contrast, the other installation in progress honoring his father so far seems to mandate another solemn performance by Kim, such as the one he gave during the show's March 7 opening reception, when he donned a special robe and devoutly drew out and reverenced the objects in a closed box to bring its symbolic meaning alive.
Kim's sensibility is modest and genuine. His commitment to his work is without question, and his subjects are always implied rather than stated directly, while using the slightest of raw materials. What distinguishes his work at Haverford as fine art rather than merely skilled installation/performance art is the intensely personal and ultimately mystical factor.
Haverford College's Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Haverford. To March 30. Mondays-Fridays 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturdays-Sundays noon-5. 610-896-1287. Free gallery talk by Kim on Tuesday, 4:15 p.m.
Inquirer art critic Victoria Donohoe's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.