Ansel Adams: Masterworks, Edward Burtynsky: The Landscape That We Change

Landscapes through the Lens: McMichael Canadian Art Collection pairs Ansel Adams and Edward Burtynsky in two powerful photographic exhibitions

From June 29 to September 29, 2013, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection will present two thought-provoking and visually stunning photography exhibitions: Ansel Adams: Masterworks and Edward Burtynsky: The Landscape That We Change. While Burtynsky's images of "disrupted" landscapes may seem at odds with Adams' pristine natural vistas, viewed together, they engage the audience in a timely dialogue about society's complex relationship to the natural world. 


Ansel AdamsDuring his decades-long career, American born Ansel Adams produced an extensive body of work that established him as arguably the most influential photographer of the twentieth century. Ansel Adams: Masterworks contains a selection of forty-seven photographs tracing the artist's development over time and highlighting some of his best-loved works. These images were selected by Adams between 1979 and his death in 1984, as part of a project known as "The Museum Set." The current exhibition was organized by the Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, California, in association with Landau Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles, California.


Born in San Francisco on February 20, 1902, Adams' early life was deeply affected by an abrupt downslide in his family's financial situation. An only child who moved from school to school, Adams spent a great deal of time exploring the under-developed landscapes near his home. His reverence for nature soon merged with another passion - photography - which ultimately became his lifelong endeavour. Adams found his most compelling subjects in Yosemite, the High Sierra, and the American Southwest. His poignant and technically precise landscapes celebrate the striking beauty of the natural environment.


Edward Burtynsky: The Landscape That We Change is comprised of thirty photographic works, including landscapes from the early 1980s and more recent images chosen fromMiningRailcutsHomesteadsTailings, and Oil, among others series. The exhibition is organized by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and curated by McMichael Assistant Curator, Chris Finn.


Edward Burtynsky - Born in St. Catharines, Ontario in 1955, Burtynsky acquired his first camera at a young age and learned the basics of photography from technical manuals purchased second-hand by his father. Growing up in close proximity to the Welland Canal, Burtynsky became fascinated by the ability of societies to alter environments through technology - a theme that would later become the basis of his work.  Burtynsky's large-scale photographs depict landscapes that have been affected by human intervention and the growth of consumer culture. Although he does not seek to position his work into the realm of political polemic, Burtynsky engages his audience in thoughtful dialogue by creating a "duality" in the viewing process. The rich colour, detail, and textural qualities of his images are in conflict with the environmental devastation they portray.


It seems particularly fitting that the work of Adams and Burtynsky will be displayed at the McMichael, which is situated on 100 acres of conservation land and houses a stunning array of paintings by the Group of Seven and their contemporaries. The Group has achieved a ubiquitous Canadian presence with their particular depictions of nature, which range from interpretations of wilderness to portrayals of mining and other commercial activities.


While Adams, Burtynsky, and the Group of Seven all depict vastly different landscapes, their work ultimately provokes a shared dialogue about the human relationship to nature. "Ansel Adams: Masterworks and Edward Burtynsky: The Landscape That We Change display these artists' representations of significant places in the physical world," said Assistant Curator, Chris Finn. Like the Group of Seven, "their aesthetic practices embrace values concerning the environment that have been shaped by their respective cultural experiences and the spirit of the times."

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Images: James Alinder, Portrait photograph of Ansel Adams, February 1984, Courtesy Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, CA
Edward Burtynsky:

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