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(Photo: MFA Boston)

Nicholas Nixon first came to public prominence 35 years ago. He was one of 10 photographers in what would come to be seen as a landmark exhibition. “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape’’ looked at the interaction of settlement and environment. It was nature photography that encompassed both the man-made and natural.

The Boston cityscapes that Nixon had in that show seem very far, except geographically, from the 75 black-and-white images in “Nicholas Nixon: Family Album,’’ which runs through next May 1 at the Museum of Fine Arts. It’s a long overdue MFA recognition for Nixon, who has taught at Massachusetts College of Art and Design since 1975. The temptation to hail him as a local hero is great, except that Nixon stopped being local in reputation almost as soon as he moved here, in 1974. He had his first Museum of Modern Art show in 1976. He’s had subsequent solo exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, MoMA again, and numerous other museums.

Yet if “New Topographics’’ has nothing in common visually with the MFA show, which consists of photographs of Nixon’s wife, their children, and her sisters, they share a fundamental thematic bond.

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Mark Feeney

Boston Globe

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Nicholas Nixon, The Brown Sisters (Photo: SFMOMA)

Perhaps more than any other work on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, “The Brown Sisters” by Nicholas Nixon captures the essence of the institution’s 75th anniversary celebration. The work is a set of 35 photographic portraits, made annually since 1975, of the artist’s wife and her three siblings standing in the same order. The museum acquired the artwork in 2000, and, as of now, there is no official end date to this act of creation.

Just as the past and future fuse in Mr. Nixon’s photographs, so the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, founded in 1935 as the San Francisco Museum of Art, is taking a Janus-like approach to its milestone year.

Arts organizations often use anniversaries as an excuse for self-flattery and financial opportunism. The recent 30th anniversary celebration for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles — with its ritzy gala headlined by Lady Gaga and the Bolshoi Ballet and a no-holds-barred campaign to raise $60 million — threatened to eclipse the opening of the museum’s important anniversary show, one of the largest exhibitions in its history.

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Chloe Veltman
New York Times

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