June 27-September 7, 2015
curated by Rachel Adams
featuring William Lamson, Melanie Schiff, Barry Stone, Richard T. Walker, and Letha Wilson with works by Aaron Siskind, Edward Weston, and Minor White
“A picture of a field can be simply a picture of a field; its significance can only be materialized by human experience.” – Tim Cresswell
Can we truly represent a place? Scores of artists, both professional and amateur, continuously attempt to answer this question. While many succeed, with our rapidly changing landscape and the overflow of natural imagery, one could argue that the significance of place has dissolved over the years. Yet landscape is closely linked to our notions of identity, history, cultural and personal memory and experience, and the artists in this exhibition capture place in new ways that reference what we once thought and still think the American landscape (truly) is.Continue Reading...
Artists such as Ansel Adams, Minor White, Edward Weston and Aaron Siskind helped define traditional notions of landscape photography in the mid-twentieth century, and the latter three have photographs in the exhibition, exposing the similarities and differences between artists working now and then with this theme. Continuing to prove a tantalizing subject, the magnetic pull of the environment ensnared each artists’ interests differently. They expand upon traditionalism found within the early works by Siskind, Weston, and White and create works that move fluidly between fictive and non-fictive spaces. Challenging and enhancing collective knowledge and existing articulations of landscape, each artist allows new processes, and methods of display to be in the forefront of their work without losing sight of the actual landscape.
William Lamson performs with and manipulates natural elements, while invoking the grandeur of the American landscape. His actions, on and off camera, create interventions that solicit a new sense of place while acting as catalysts for future examination. In Untitled (Mylar), Lamson follows a Mylar emergency blanket as it skims along the desert, pushed and pulled by the wind. The simple action of tracking the blanket across the desert challenges previous ideologies of how one interacts with the desert. Similarly, Melanie Schiff documents the current conditions of her personal landscape in and around her home in Sunland-Tujunga, Los Angeles. Her haunting photographs act as both landscape and still life—experimenting with the notion of the man-made juxtaposed with natural environments. Clay Birds, documents an outdoor shooting range and the bright orange marks ingrained in the hill by the clay pigeons. Her instinctual approach captures this tension that she alternatively manipulates with double exposures, motion or cropping, alerting the viewer to unusual quotidian scenes.
Richard T. Walker’s practice contemplates the spaces of the American West through a merging of performance within the landscape. As he examines and calls into question our longstanding relationship with the sublime, Walker explores the bond between man and nature, often times placing himself as the lone figure in the scene. While music continually informs his practice, the score in Walker’s recent work the predicament of always (as it is) is more prominent, pushing the imagery past questioning the sublime and, in fact, defining human experience amidst the landscape.
Manipulation, addition, and subtraction of the landscape after the fact are common elements within Barry Stone and Letha Wilson’s respective practices. Stone reflects on our perception and how it continually shifts. By manipulating the digital code embedded in a photograph, he creates new and altered landscapes. Referring to this as ‘data-bending,’ the results ensure the viewer sees the world quite differently. Stone sometimes creates a glitch across the image or bright color shifts or slight variations that are almost imperceptible, allowing the works to depict liminal landscapes that walk the line between fiction and reality. Wilson’s manipulations are quite opposite, in both form and process. While photographing well-known landscapes such as the Grand Tetons as well as generic rocks, shrubs and trees, Wilson subjects the photograph to a physical process including pleating, cutting, bending, and dipping in cement. These sculptural works allude to the romanticism and mythology associated with the landscape while creating new constructions and interpretations of the landscape.
The artists in Mine.Yours.Ours. reinvigorate the concept of landscape as a site for appropriation and the formation of identity. While referencing Woody Guthrie’s iconic folk song This Land is Your Land in the title, the artists expand upon romantic themes often associated with landscape painting and photography and directly raise the question of photography’s ability to document a place and add to its collective history. In writing about Melanie Schiff’s work, Beth Capper observed, “Landscapes are man-made observations that operate to make nature a container for human memory.” From poetically performing in the landscape to digitally altering the code of a photographic file to marrying a print with concrete, the artists capture and illuminate these spaces, adding to the collective memory of the American landscape and, in turn, making them mine, yours, ours.
– Rachel Adams, 2015
Rachel Adams is the Associate Curator for the University at Buffalo Art Galleries. She was most recently the fourth Curator-in-Residence at Disjecta Contemporary Art Center in Portland, OR.