“Water,” at Gallery Kayafas, is not an exhibition of epic seascapes or submarine wonders. The show, curated by Gus Kayafas, founder and president of the photographic atelier Palm Press and husband of gallery owner Arlette Kayafas, features images by more than 60 artists in many mediums, primarily photos, reflecting on people’s ordinary relationship to water: It cools on a hot day, slakes thirst, and invites play.
It is an intimate, mostly light and refreshing summer show. There’s no doubt what animates the man in Aaron Siskind’s “Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #37,” a 1953 photograph of a balletic diver, stark against a white sky. It hangs perfectly beside “Quarry,” a remarkable short documentary Richard Rogers filmed at the Quincy Quarry in 1967, following divers, log-rollers, and teens puffing on cigarettes. Their voices reflect on their place in the world as we watch them frolic and lounge in their swimsuits.
Harold E. Edgerton used a strobe to photograph the shape of the stream in “Water from the Faucet” (1932). The twists and bounces look sculpted from crystal-clear ice — fluidity made solid. The flow is a finer mist in Charles “Teenie” Harris’s brilliant “Children Showered by Fire Hydrant.” In Pittsburgh in 1950, more than two dozen young African-Americans stood stiffly for this group photo on a slick cobblestone street under an encompassing arc of cooling spray. Their odd formality under the circumstances makes them appear vulnerable, but one girl poses, arm akimbo, making a face, breaking the scene open.
The people in Joel Janowitz’s monotype “Tiny Swimmers” are dwarfed by the elements. The green-blue print looks down on a lap pool bordering the sea at Bondi Beach in Sydney. Swimmers appear oblivious as huge waves crash through fencing and into the pool.
Occasional ominous notes are fleshed out in the final, more environmentally attuned section. Greg Heins’s photo “Katrina Waterlines, New Orleans, LA” depicts horizontal lines crossing barren trees and the wall behind, marking past — and perhaps future — devastation. The bleak backdrop of climate change makes the everyday play depicted elsewhere in “Water” seem all the more dear.
At Gallery Kayafas, 450 Harrison Ave., through August 10. 617-482-0411, www.gallerykayafas.com