Famous images, including Edward Steichen's ''The Flatiron, New York,'' give a nice resonance to this loose overview of 20th-century photography.
Structured to mix well-established masters with widely recognized contemporaries, the show spans a time period that begins with Steichen's 1902 photogravure featuring a seated torso next to a tall flower-filled urn and ends in 1989 with Sebastiao Salgado's forceful print of grim coal miners in India. In its recollection of Degas, the Steichen is an effective reminder of turn-of-the-century efforts to align photography with the fine arts. The Salgado emphasizes how cinema-influenced close-up framing can bring unforgettable drama to photojournalism.
The installation is not chronological, which is a plus in this small exhibition space, for it encourages comparisons of stylistic goals and printing techniques. With its sensitivity to approaches, attitudes and emotional depth, the show gains strength and momentum as it sifts through key ideas. There is the wonderfully stark and startling formal invention present in Paul Strand's ''White Fence, Port Kent, New York'' and the gripping late-century irony in David Wojnarowicz's now classic platinum print of buffaloes tumbling from a cliff to their death. Minor White's details of peeling paint and Wynn Bullock's tree trunk grain patterns represent a certain objectivity as well as an interest in a disorienting close focus. One highlight among a number of well-chosen examples of socially concerned photojournalism is ''Ellis Unit'' by Danny Lyon, which comments on prison life in the 60's but is also a tour de force of inventive design.
Both Don Resnick and Barbara Roux deal with nature, but their themes are quite different. The luminous Resnick canvases are sensuous celebrations of the Long Island landscape, while the multi-component, site-specific work of Ms. Roux is intended to sound a warning about the loss of the natural environment to development.
A Centerport artist known for her conceptual installations, Ms. Roux is especially effective in her project here, ''A Last Autumn: The Wasting of a Young Forest.'' The piece calls attention to endangered trees by treating their leaves and branches as precious articles protected by hand-blown Victorian bell jars. The leaves are actually wax sculptures modeled after the originals. The precisely ordered row of glass cloches augments the message by creating the respectful aura of a scientific laboratory.
Systemic organization and its invitation to studying and researching information is expanded still further by the placement, behind each jar, of color laser prints depicting the specific threatened species.
A powerful natural radiance is always present in Mr. Resnick's large, vigorously brushed paintings, for each area of pigment either holds or reflects a light that has been carefully analyzed and translated into color. Effects can seem shimmering and occasionally mystical. This is a particularly revealing three-segment installation because it clarifies how different the responses can be to somewhat classic skyscapes and treescapes, with their inviting visual paths, to open and sweeping Atlantic coast settings and to the claustrophobic force of dense, mid-forest experiences. One wooded scene, ''Clearing,'' with its loosely brushed pinks, lavenders, oranges and greens, is one of the most successful examples. Another is the evocative, handsomely moody ''Evening Calm.'' A brilliant orange haze makes ''Low Tide'' one of the strongest color essays. All of the Resnick tonalities seem filtered, modulated and adjusted, yet the dashing character of the strokes manages to give most works a fresh sparkle.
Northern European painting of earlier centuries has an elegant, muted tonality that is often appealing. Perhaps its strongest appeal, however, is its democratic, humanistic content. Genre, still life and landscape emerged as important themes, and the middle class became important patrons, after reforms in that region reduced church-related commissions. Sailing-vessel scenes, reflecting Dutch strength in global affairs, are also part of this varied sampling that concentrates on 17th-century work.
One highlight here, a winter skating scene, reflects an interest in using the changing seasons as subject matter. A large study of a bird fight is another fine piece, but the era's passion for exotic flowers is represented by a work that seems comparatively flat even though it contains the proscribed metaphorical symbolism of bud, bloom and decay.
Other paintings stand out as factual observations of people and places. Strollers from all walks of life are glorified in a cathedral interior that is shown functioning as a town gathering place, and many tiny clusters of workers performing their daily chores can be discovered in a typically brownish landscape by Jan Van Goyen.
The exhibition stretches its date span and its message range with a nicely executed, finely detailed room interior by the 19th-century painter Max Gaisser, which supports and extends the tradition of meticulous observations of everyday life.