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Shots In the Dark: Photos by Weegee the Famous

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3 stars

Indianapolis Museum of Art. The IMA has stuck a sequence of stickers on the floor; follow them like breadcrumbs and they lead to a gallery space in, of all places, the European Collection. It's a slightly incongruous location for an exhibition of work by an artist whose photographs have played a big part in defining 20th century Americana. If any one person can take credit for being first at the intersection where loneliness, desire and violence meet something called Noir, it was the ambulance-chasing Weegee. But then, Usher Fellig — Weegee to the rest of us — was a Ukrainian immigrant, whose eye for his adopted country and, in particular, New York City was not only fresh but raw.

It is the IMA's great good fortune to have acquired a treasure-trove of Weegee's photographs for its collection and the selection currently on view, while modest, does a worthwhile job of showing that Weegee's interests extended well beyond his famous crime scene images.

The pictures here span the 1940s through 1960 and include shots of people sleeping in movie theaters, sideshow performers, dancers and crowd scenes, as well as a selection of deliberately distorted shots. Although Weegee is readily pegged as a chronicler of visceral America, these pictures remind us that he was also fascinated by this country's transplanted character. Face after face finds the old country uprooted, thrown against the wall of something bright and new and tough.

Through Jan. 23, 2011; www.imamuseum.org.

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