Locating Landscapes: New Strategies, New Technologies

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© Courtesy of Sam Lee Gallery
Locating Landscapes: New Strategies, New Technologies
Curated by: Kate Palmer Albers

990 N. Hill Street #190
Los Angeles, CA 90012
October 30th, 2009 - December 5th, 2009
Opening: October 30th, 2009 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

landscape, technology, geo-location, photography


Los Angeles, CA - Sam Lee Gallery is pleased to present Locating Landscape: New Strategies, New Technologies, a group show guest-curated by photography historian Kate Palmer Albers. The show runs October 30 to December 5, 2009. The gallery will host a reception for the artists on Friday, October 30, 2009, from 6 to 9 pm.

Locating Landscape showcases artists working at the edges of photography, landscape, technology, and geo-location, and includes work by Lewis Baltz, Christiana Caro, Andrew Freeman, Frank Gohlke, Margot Anne Kelley, Mark Klett, Paho Mann, Adam Thorman, and Byron Wolfe.

Inspired by the current revival of the influential and critically acclaimed New Topographics exhibition from 1975, which will be concurrently on view at LACMA, Locating Landscape highlights some of the most interesting young artists at work in Los Angeles and the Southwest today, linking their work with the New Topographics generation. This earlier generation has proven decisively influential for the artists in the show, sometimes directly so. Margot Anne Kelley and Christiana Caro studied with Frank Gohlke; Andrew Freeman studied with Lewis Baltz; and Paho Mann and Adam Thorman studied with Mark Klett as well as Bill Jenkins, the original curator of New Topographics at George Eastman House in Rochester, New York.

“New Topographics was a watershed moment in the history of landscape photography,” says Albers. “It’s been a major undercurrent in photographic practice for more than forty years, and now—especially with the rapid growth and ready availability of networked mapping and locational technologies—we’re seeing an explosion of new work that’s taking landscape in a new direction.”

These new landscapes incorporate novel methods to connect with the world they represent while drawing on the visual vocabulary developed by earlier generations of landscape photographers. Where the New Topographics photographers worked in black and white and made relatively small prints, Locating Landscape reflects the contemporary engagement with large scale and lush color. Likewise, if both beauty and politics were slightly submerged in the landscapes of the 1970s, today, the lyric and poetic comfortably coexist with cultural and political concern.

Work & Artists:

Selected Lewis Baltz images from his 1977 Nevada series serve as historical anchor to the show. Made in and around Reno and Sparks, Nevada, the black-and-white images refer both forward and backward in time, together laying the groundwork for a new definition of an artist's engagement with the landscape.

For the 2001-2002 series 10 miles North, South, East, West and Points in Between, Christiana Caro mapped out the 10-mile radius around her apartment in Boston and then set out to find the locations with a GPS. From each location (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW) she made a large-scale, 365-degree color panorama. Caro's lyrical images are thus the result of a highly technologically mediated, yet ultimately arbitrary, engagement with her personal environment.

Los Angeles-based Andrew Freeman’s 2001-2004 photographs of now-scattered barracks from Manzanar – the World War II camp where Japanese-Americans were interned – conceptually brings these historic structures back together in the wake of their post-war dispersal across the state of California. His pursuit of each building's current, and otherwise unmarked, location, concluded with a color photograph of the building and its precise geographic coordinates in latitude and longitude.

Frank Gohlke, whose work appeared with Baltz's in the 1975 New Topographics show, continues to engage critically with the landscape, mapping, and technology. His ongoing series of large-format color photographs, A Line on the Land: 42.30 North and the Massachusetts Landscape, is a collaboration with the poet Herbert Gottfried. As Gottfried has written, "One minute of latitude is a mile wide on the ground, thus 42.30N is 1 mile by 155 miles of landscape, from the Marblehead Neck on the east to Berry Mountain on the west. We drove, walked, and even paddled across Massachusetts using a hand-held GPS device to locate the latitude. Once in the line, we explored that mile, responding independently to what we found."

In her recent project Local Treasures, Margot Anne Kelley plays the GPS game geocaching, in which players hide "caches" and post their GPS coordinates to a central website for others to track. Upon finding the caches, at locations all across the country, Kelley makes a color photograph of the surrounding environment, which she accompanies with a textual narrative.  The work both records and provokes a meditation on our mediated engagement with the environment.

Mark Klett, who emerged a few years after the New Topographics with the Rephotographic Survey, has consistently sought to understand the relationship of place to time, finding his way to landscapes via photographic history, returning time and again to those sites originally made famous by the nineteenth-century survey photographers. In his recent work with Byron Wolfe, the two artists find the sites of the canonical imagery of the Grand Canyon, producing rich and  complex large digital color prints that incorporate the historic black-and-white imagery.

Paho Mann's deadpan photographs of commercial buildings in the Phoenix area are part of his ReInhabited Cirlce-Ks project, a deceptively simple visual representation of a complex urban and commercial phenomenon. As existing Circle-Ks migrated toward more profitable corner lots, the empty – and identically constructed – buildings were left to be inhabited by new tenants. The work, Mann suggests, offers insight into "the complex relationship between corporate expansion and the manifestation of individualism."

In Memory of Water: The Salt River Project, Adam Thorman follows the river as a literal line in the land, tracing its path east to west across Phoenix. In Thorman's care, the riverbed reveals itself to be a surprisingly varied ecosystem, marked with both natural grace and human detritus. The photographs are, as Thorman says, "the story of an urban desert river."

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