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Mercyhurst exhibit showcases famous Kodak Coloramas

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

In 1950, the Eastman Kodak Company launched a billboard advertisement campaign in New York’s Grand Central Terminal that would become a staple of the famous railway station for the next four decades. Kodak Coloramas – massive, panoramic photographs depicting idealized scenes of American life – were once described as "the world's largest photographs." A single Colorama ad, measuring 18 feet high and 60 feet wide, dominated the east interior wall of the terminal's main concourse.

Five hundred and sixty-five Coloramas were produced between 1950 and 1990. Thirty-six are reproduced in the George Eastman Museum exhibition Colorama, on display in the Cummings Gallery at Mercyhurst University from Jan. 11 through Feb. 7. The majority of the images in the exhibition were made in the 1960s, arguably Colorama’s heyday and a time of great social change in America.

Many of these idealized snapshots of 20th century American culture are reminiscent of Norman Rockwell paintings, and not without reason. Rockwell – famous for his paintings and illustrations of everyday American life, especially on the covers of the Saturday Evening Post – was an artistic director on some photo shoots for the Colorama campaign.

Now, more than 20 years after the last Colorama left Grand Central, a reexamination of these enchanting images offers insight into the histories of photographic practices and technologies, advertising, and the American story.

A free public reception for the Colorama exhibition will be held Thursday, Jan. 14, from 6 to 8 p.m. The gallery is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends from 2 to 5 p.m.

For more information call gallery director Heather Dana at (814) 824-2092 or email hdana@mercyhurst.edu

PHOTO: Texas, 1968.
Jim Pond/© Eastman Kodak Co. and Courtesy of George Eastman House