Feature

“Manufactured Landscapes”

Photography by Edward Burtynsky embraces postindustrial landscapes.

Edward Burtynsky's large-scale photographs are undeniably beautiful, said Kenneth Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle. But in his work, beauty means trouble. Burtynsky photographs landscapes massively altered by industry. In one picture, a river polluted by a nickel mine runs bright orange. This traveling retrospective covers 20 years of the Canadian artist's photographs of nature under siege: Rock quarries look like immense skyscrapers, while at a shipbreaking yard in Bangladesh the world's biggest tankers lie torn apart on the beach.

But Burtynsky is not interested in a one-note environmental screed, said Robert L. Pincus in The San Diego Union-Tribune. He simply documents places we usually avoid. These are precisely the places where natural resources are eventually transformed into the things we use and buy: buildings, cars, boats. 'œThe way he photographs these places creates a weird sense of wonder.' The awe-inspiring cavity of a quarry in Vermont is 'œakin to architecture in reverse, with the layered walls of gray' surrounding open space. Burtynsky frames these images like paintings; his sense of scale echoes 19th-century landscapes by Thomas Cole or Albert Bierstadt, who painted the deepest canyons and highest mountains of the Americas.

He is this era's Ansel Adams, said Christopher Knight in the Los Angeles Times. But whereas Adams and Carleton Watkins were photographing craggy rocks and placid lakes untouched by the growing industrial society, Burtynsky chronicles the postindustrial remains. He doesn't remake the 'œout-of-date genre of romanticized landscapes' but charts the epic story of human intervention from today's vantage. He makes monuments out of the man-made through a 'œrigorous attention to planar surfaces and compositional geometry.' It's at once frightening and inviting.

Mercury News

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