Archive for October 2nd, 2012

02
Oct
12

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: Picturing the Landscape’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 22nd May – 7th October 2012

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“Hence the photographer’s most important and likewise most difficult task is not learning to manage his camera, or to develop, or to print. It is learning to see photographically.”

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Edward Weston. The Complete Photographer. January 20, 1943

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Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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John Beasly Greene
 (American)
Thebes, Village of Ghezireh
1853-1854
Salted paper print from a waxed paper negative
9 1/8 x 12 inches
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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John Greene was an archaeologist, the well-to-do son of a banker from Boston who lived in Paris, and a photographer. By 1853 the twenty-one-year-old Greene had learned to use Le Gray’s waxed-paper process, the technique of choice for traveling Frenchmen. That same year he made the first of two expeditions to Egypt and Nubia, bringing back more than two hundred negatives of monuments and landscapes, some ninety-four of which, printed by Blanquart-Evrard in 1854, comprise the album “Le Nil, monuments, paysages, explorations photographiques par J. B. Greene.” So rare are these albums that we assume that Greene published them at his own expense. On his second trip, in 1854-55, he not only photographed but also excavated, especially at Medinet-Habou. During an archaeological and photographic expedition to Algeria the following winter, this exceptionally talented young man died of an undisclosed illness.

Greene’s Egyptian landscapes are startlingly barren. Coalescing from large, softly nuanced tonal planes, the views seem to shimmer above the page almost to the point of evaporating, like distant desert mirages. Generally, Greene placed the geological or archeological structure of these pictures at a distance, surrounded by sand and sky. This, the most minimal of his visions, sums up the Egyptian landscape. Stretching between the great river and the endless expanse of sky, and between the great river and the desert, is a thin band of fertile earth – the ligament of life that gave rise to a great civilization. That the picture functions like a diagram may owe to Greene’s knowledge of hieroglyphics; the Egyptian pictograph for “country” is a flat, floating disk, hardly more than a horizontal line.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

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Francis Frith (English, 1822 – 1898)
The Pyramids of Dahshoor, From the East
1857
Albumen silver print
11.6 x 16.2 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902 – 1984)
Sugar Pine Cones
Negative 1925 – 1930; print 1931 – 1932
Gelatin silver print
11.6 x 16.2 cm
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

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Edward Weston
Kelp on Tide Pool, Point Lobos
1939
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Rather than depicting a traditionally picturesque vista or capturing accurate perspective, photographers of the 20th century began to explore the various but particularly photographic ways that the natural world could be seen through the camera lens. Often this led to spatial experimentation. Taken at Point Lobos in California, this image by Edward Weston plays with the perception, and misperception, of space. The photographer cropped his photograph of a tide pool to show kelp puncturing the water’s surface in the foreground, while in the upper register an underwater landscape appears simultaneously near and far.

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“In Focus: Picturing Landscape, at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center, May 22 – October 7, 2012, offers a rich trove of landscape photography from some of the most innovative photographers in the genre. Drawn exclusively from the Getty Museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition brings together the work of twenty photographers, spanning the medium from the mid-1800s to the current decade, including Ansel Adams, Robert Adams, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Imogen Cunningham, William Garnett, John Beasly Greene, Eliot Porter, Clifford Ross, Toshio Shibata and Edward Weston.

“The range of photographs chosen for this exhibition were selected from hundreds of extraordinary landscape works in the Getty Museum’s photography collection with an eye towards the various ways that photographers have responded to the daunting challenge of depicting the natural landscape photographically,” says Karen Hellman, assistant curator, Department of Photographs, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and curator of the exhibition.

Since the invention of the medium, photographers have turned to the landscape as a source of inspiration. Changing artistic movements and continual technical advancements have provided opportunities for camera artists to approach the subject in diverse and imaginative ways. The Getty originally presented In Focus: The Landscape in June 2008, curated by Brett Abbott. Expanding on the first presentation of photographs, this second exhibition on landscape in the Getty Museum’s In Focus series examines how photographers have sought to capture the breadth and perspective of the landscape through a camera lens. The exhibition is organized around three main themes: nineteenth-century technical developments by photographers such as Francis Frith who captured intriguing views of the Egyptian Pyramids in the 1850s; works that show purely photographic approaches such as those by Edward Weston and Harry Callahan; and more recent ways in which photographers have framed the landscape to make environmental and conceptual statements.

One of the earliest works in the exhibition is actually not a photograph but a drawing made by Sir John Frederick Herschel in 1821 with the aid of a camera lucida, an optical device sometimes used as a drawing aid by artists of the period. The exhibition also includes a very early full-plate daguerreotype of a landscape made by Boston dentist Samuel Bemis in 1840. During the first decades of the 20th century, artistic experimentation flourished and tested the boundaries of the genre. Photographers such as Edward Weston and Harry Callahan sought to explore the landscape as abstraction and pure form. In the second half of the 20th century, photographers began to explore the landscape in more socially conscious ways. Eliot Porter devoted himself to publishing work in concert with conservation efforts. Virginia Beahan has delved into the landscape as a site of human history, rather than simply a subject of aesthetic contemplation.

Contemporary artists continue to be inspired by the rich tradition of landscape photography. Also included in the exhibition is a large-scale photograph by Clifford Ross from his 2006 Mountain series, produced from extremely high-resolution digital files in order to make prints that came as close as possible to replicating reality. Several works will be on view for the first time, including a photograph taken in the forest of Fontainebleau, outside of Paris, by Charles Marville in the 1850s, and a photograph from Point Lobos, California, by Wynn Bullock, as well as a work by the Japanese photographer Toshio Shibata acquired with funds from the Getty Museum Photographs Council.

In Focus: Picturing Landscape is the eleventh installation of the ongoing In Focus series of thematic presentations of photographs from the Getty’s permanent collection, and includes twenty-two works by twenty photographers.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Virginia Beahan (American, born 1946) and Laura McPhee (American, born 1958)
Mount Rainier, Washington
2000
Chromogenic dye coupler print
75.5 x 96.5 cm
© Virginia Beahan and Laura McPhee
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Nancy Goliger and Bruce Berman

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William A. Garnett (American, 1916 – 2006)
Sandbars, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
1966
Cibachrome print
34.4 x 51 cm
© Estate of William A. Garnett
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Nature and photography have been linked since the inception of the medium. Whether driven by the challenge of capturing the expanse and perspective of a vista or by the myriad possibilities of creating a unique artistic experience, the act of depicting the natural landscape has inspired photographers from the 1800s to the present.

To create this image, photographer William Garnett piloted his plane over sand bars in Cape Cod. In addition to the natural beauty of the ocean, the photographer invites us to explore space and perception in a unique way. The undulating forms of the sandbars play with the boundaries between foreground and background. Changing tones of blue challenge us to know if we look at water, sky, or even a view from outer space.

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Clifford Ross
Mountain IV
2004
Chromogenic color print
63 x 118 in
© Clifford Ross Studio
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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A persistent aspect of picturing a landscape has been the concept of the ideal. Recent photographers have framed nature not only to emphasize its beauty but also to highlight its unattainability in a modern context.

Photographer Clifford Ross was inspired to create this image of Mount Sopris while on a family holiday. In order to, as the photographer put it, “grab as much of the mountain as [he] possibly could in one shot,” Ross invented a camera, the R1, which exposes 9 x 18 inch aerial film. When processed by hand and scanned, the negatives produce files with a hundred times higher resolution than those made with the average professional digital camera. Yet even though he pursues a near replica of reality, Ross also manipulates the digital file to re-create the landscape as he remembers experiencing it. Viewers have the ability to examine the scene in greater detail than they might even in person.

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Eliot Porter (American, 1901 – 1990)
Aspens and Grass, Elk Mountain Road, New Mexico, October 3, 1972
1972
Dye transfer print
26.2 x 20.6 cm
© 1990 Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Bequest of the artist
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser

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The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 – 5.30pm
Saturday 10 – 9pm
Sunday 10 – 9pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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