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The Altered Landscape: Photographs of a Changing Environment

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  • Posted October 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Look What We Have Done: Look At What We Are Doing

    THE ALTERED LANDSCAPE is a major monograph published to accompany and exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art, curated by Ann Wolfe. While this is an erudite and visually impressive monograph it is at the same time disturbing - and that is the primary focus of the book and exhibition. This book forces us to look at the destruction of the landscape over the past fifty years, destruction in the name of 'progress', by mining, 'developing', deforesting, and many other ways we have carved the surface of this globe to suit our shortsighted needs. The visions before our eyes are courtesy of approximately 100 photographers beginning with Robert Adams, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke and Lewis Baltz through Andy Goldsworthy, Catherine Opie, Chris Jordan to Richard Misrach and Mark Klett. While viewing these images may induce admiration for the quality of the art presented, it is not long until the thundering impact we are witnessing comes home. In tandem with these pioneering photographers are images by artists who use techniques that draw attention to the photographic process and the photograph-as-object. Mark Klett, Patrick Nagatani, John Pfahl, Jim Sanborn, Sharon Stewart, Amy Stein, and Fandra Chang 'use color alteration, montage, visual metaphors and puns, and textual elements to suggest levels of humor and irony related to our contemporary landscapes. While the collection represents a diversity of artists, techniques, visual styles, subjects, and ideological positions, it is unified by two basic principles: a concern for inspiring dialogue about the impact of human activity on natural landscapes and an effort to depart from idealized notions of scenic beauty and pristine wilderness that were dominant in the early 20th century aesthetic of Ansel Adams and the Sierra Club.' The accompanying essays by Lucy Lippard, Geoff Manaugh, and W. J. T. Mitchell add immensely to the impact of this book. It is a volume and a concept that deserves our close attention. Grady Harp

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