October 13 - November 21, 2009
Adamson Gallery presents an exhibition of photographs by Edward Burtynsky. "Oil" examines the resource from all sides, depicting the mechanics of its extraction and refinement, the details of its consumption and the effects; physical, political, and economic, of its influence. The large-scale photographs are reminiscent of the tradition of landscape painting, yet the landscapes they depict force the viewer to rethink the connection between nature and industry.
Burtynsky has traveled the world to document the influence of oil, taking photographs of oil fields in Azerbaijan, Canada, California, highways in Texas, and industrial parks in Shanghai, among other places. Like the landscape painter before him, the artist shoots from a distance, letting the scale and sprawl of his subjects overwhelm the piece and its viewer. Like paintings in the sublime tradition, Burtynsky's photographs inspire awe as well as apprehension-the images are very beautiful, but they document a frightening reality.
Highway #2, Los Angeles, California, USA, 2003
Highway #2 is an aerial shot of a highway loop in Los Angeles - the road twists and turns, making complicated, abstracted swirls. The patterns are mesmerizing to the eye and remind the viewer of the power of technological and industrial innovation. However, in the context of this series, and when placed alongside Burtynsky's other photographs, this piece acts as a powerful reminder of the continuum of production. These dual messages are a potent commentary on contemporary life.
The artist writes, "These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear. We are drawn by desire - a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times."
This project is part of a larger inquiry into the interactions between nature and industry. Burtynsky has also completed series of photographs of shipyards, quarries, and urban mines which have been exhibited internationally. Images from the series are also on display at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and have been collected in a new artist book from Steidl. Edward Burtynsky's work has been collected by the National Gallery of Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, among many other institutional and corporate collectors. He lives and works in Toronto, Canada.
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