Two exhibitions to open at La Jolla’s Athenaeum Friday

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau’s remark could well apply to the photography of Jan Staller. Images from his published monographs “Frontier New York” and “On Planet Earth” will be exhibited at Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, along with artwork by scholarship winners of the San Diego State University School of Art, Design, and Art History, through June 14.

The opening reception is 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, May 9 at the Athenaeum, 1008 Wall St. A film about Staller’s philosophy and process by Dale Schierholt will be shown at 7 p.m. A short ceremony in the Rotunda will honor the art scholarship winners.

■ Staller’s photographs depict the urban and industrial landscapes he made in the Metropolitan New York area over the late 1970s through the 1990s. Also exhibited will be pictures from travels to places as far as Asia and as near as New Jersey. Selected from more than 30 years of work, these works plot the range of his interests while demonstrating a consistent investigation of the expressive possibilities of the photographic medium.

Involved with photography from childhood and educated with a bachelor’s degree in fine art from the Maryland Institute, Staller moved to New York City in 1976. He was soon completing assignments for The New York Times Magazine, Life, Fortune, Forbes and other publications.

At the same time, he began his personal work — color photographs of the industrial and urban landscape of Manhattan and the greater metropolitan area. Before long these photographs would appear in photography journals and art galleries. Staller’s influential nighttime photographs have been exhibited and collected by galleries and museums worldwide. He has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant.

■ This is the 12th year the Athenaeum will host the exhibition of SDSU artwork. The SDSU Art Council selects students from its upper division undergraduate or graduate programs for the opportunity to present their work in the Athenaeum’s Rotunda Gallery.

■ IF YOU GO: Athenaeum Music & Art Library galleries are open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, closed Sunday and Monday. Admission is free. (858) 454-5872.