Canadian Artist Edward Burtynsky’s Photographs Provoke Serious Thought
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts’ Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery will feature the work of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky in an exhibition entitled Edward Burtynsky: The Industrial Sublime from May 25 to September 3, 2012.
Fascinated by landscapes that have been intentionally and perhaps irrevocably altered by contemporary human industry, Burtynsky creates works that do not just address the environmental destruction that has been wreaked all over the globe, but paradoxically reveal the beauty of the resulting topography. Featuring 15 photographs, The Industrial Sublime asks viewers to consider the inevitable tension between consumerist society’s thirst for new products and ongoing sources of energy, as well as the need for environmental sustainability if we are to reduce or eliminate the traumatic impact of industry on the earth.
“Burtynsky doesn’t simply criticize the scarring of the land, but rather acknowledges the conflict between the human desire for economic growth and the value of protecting our delicate environment,” says Frist Center Chief Curator, Mark Scala. “He finds both beauty and repulsiveness in his depictions of mining, manufacturing, consumption, waste disposal and recycling.”
According to Mr. Scala, it is this balance of the purely aesthetic and indirectly political that defines Burtynsky’s photographic oeuvre. Oil Fields #22 presents a lush vista through which bright silver oil pipelines zigzag dramatically, guiding one’s eye further and further towards the cloudy horizon. It is unclear whether nature is slowly encroaching upon—and usurping—the manmade ducts, or if the pipeline has interminably fenced in the once-rogue forest.
The repercussions of our global dependence on oil is a theme that Burtynsky presses on further in Breezewood, Pennsylvania, USA, a photograph featuring the entirely manmade environment of a travel “oasis” in Pennsylvania. A myriad of gas stations, four-lane highways and fast food restaurants, Burtynsky succeeds in capturing an epicenter of modern human activity and commerce. Yet the scene is conspicuously devoid of life— not a single human form can be discerned amidst the acres of pavement and bright signs and nature is visible only on the fringes of the photograph in purposefully planted spaces.
“There exists an implicit social commentary in Burtynsky’s photographs,” Mr. Scala explains, “Yet there is no explicit call to action. We are merely faced with the conflicting nature of our desires as consumers, as well as our responsibilities as custodians of our environment. By remaining neutral, Burtynsky allows us to come to our own conclusions about the next step in humanity’s unending quest for progress.”
The exhibition, organized in collaboration with Weber State University, Ogden, Utah, where the exhibition opened in August 2011, travelled to the University of Wyoming Art Museum in Laramie where it opened January 29, 2012. The Frist Center will be the exhibition’s final venue.
About Edward Burtynsky
Edward Burtynsky is known as one of Canada’s most respected photographers. He credits his interest in the link between industry and nature to exposure to the General Motors plant in his hometown in his youth. An active lecturer on photographic art, Burtynsky’s distinctions include the TED Prize, The Outreach award at the Recontres d’Arles, the Flying Elephant Fellowship, and the Poloff Beny Book Award. In 2006, he was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of Canada and holds four honorary degrees. His work is featured in more than 50 major collections and museums around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Bibliotèque Nationale in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim in New York, the Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in California.
The catalog for this exhibition was developed by Weber State University and features an essay by Weber State art historian Angelika Pagel.
Edward Burtynsky: The Industrial Sublime is organized by the Department of Visual Arts, Weber State University, Ogden, Utah, the University of Wyoming Art Museum, Laramie, Wyoming, and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, Tennessee.
Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery Exhibition Sponsor: Morgan Keegan
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is supported in part by the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Related Public Programs
Friday, June 15
Film: Manufactured Landscapes
Frist Center Auditorium
Free; seating is first come, first seated
Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky is fascinated by the subject of the topographical landscape as it has been irrevocably altered by industries that feed the world’s appetite for material goods. The Industrial Sublime: Edward Burtynsky, on view in the Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery from June 25 through September 3, 2012, presents the beauty and evidence of destruction in landscapes that have been altered by human industry, exploring the tensions between aesthetics, economics, and environmentalism.
About the film:
Manufactured Landscapes is a documentary on the world and work of Edward Burtynsky. Internationally acclaimed for his large-scale photographs of “Manufactured Landscapes”—quarries, recycling yards, factories, mines, and dams—Burtynsky creates stunningly beautiful art from civilization’s materials and debris. With breathtaking sequences, such as the opening tracking shot through an almost endless factory, the filmmakers also extend the narratives of Burtynsky’s photographs, allowing us to meditate on our impact on the planet and witness both the epicenters of industrial endeavor and the dumping grounds of its waste. The film powerfully shifts our consciousness about the world and the way we live in it, without simplistic judgments or reductive resolutions. Directed by Jennifer Baichwal, 2006. 90 minutes. 35mm. Unrated.
Saturday, July 14
Connecting Disciplines: “Burtynsky's Cinematic Landscapes” Presented by Jennifer Fay Ph.D., Director of Film Studies, Associate Professor of Film Studies and English, Vanderbilt University
Meet at exhibition entrance
Free with purchase of gallery admission
Edward Burtynsky’s photographs confront us with at least two paradoxes. The first has to do with the world we’ve created for ourselves. Human-made landscapes, he shows us, are not only unnatural; they are inhospitable and almost unrecognizable to the very humans that made them. By decentering the human, Burtynsky makes our own world strange to us through technology that sees both more and less than we do. The second paradox has to do with the medium of photography. Despite his use of still images, Burtynsky manages to convey precisely the ever-changing nature of this unnatural world. We may notice the quality of fleeting light and reflections, of cars and humans in arrested movement, of a landscape that, however monumental, is always in the process of transforming and disappearing. That is to say, his photographs have something in common with cinema. Focusing on both the estranging perspective and implied movement in these images, this gallery talk reflects on this exhibit in relation to cinema as both a time-based photographic medium and as a potentially defamiliarizing experience of duration and change.
Friday, August 3
ARTini: Edward Burtynsky: The Industrial Sublime
Meet at exhibition entrance
Free with purchase of gallery admission
Are you curious about art? Do you want to learn more about the content and concepts behind an artist’s work? If you answered yes to either of those questions, then the ARTini program is for you! ARTinis are designed for everyone—from the novice to the connoisseur—and include informal and insightful conversations that offer a deeper understanding of one or two works of art in an exhibition.
Join Katie Delmez, Associate Curator at the Frist Center, as she leads an informal conversation about some of the works included in the exhibition Edward Burtynsky: The Industrial Sublime.
Please note: This program is offered again on Tuesday, August 7 at noon. It is free with gallery admission, and visitors are asked to meet at the entrance to the exhibition.
About the Frist Center
Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., is an art exhibition center dedicated to presenting the finest visual art from local, regional, U.S. and international sources in a program of changing exhibitions. The Frist Center’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive stations relating to Frist Center exhibitions. Gallery admission to the Frist Center is free for visitors 18 and younger and to Frist Center members. Frist Center admission is $10.00 for adults and $7.00 for seniors, military and college students with ID. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5–9 p.m. Discounts are offered for groups of 10 or more with advance reservation by calling (615) 744-3247.The Frist Center is open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. and Sundays, 1–5:30 p.m., with the Frist Center Café opening at noon. Additional information is available by calling (615) 244-3340 or by visiting our Web site at http://www.fristcenter.org.