The power of Edward Burtynsky’s landscape photographs is undeniable. Their sweeping aerial perspectives are shot in a style that verges on abstraction without losing their figurative referent. The breathtaking, large-scale images depict landscapes altered and scarred by human industry and development. The stepped terraces and switchback roads of a dusty, Mars-red mining site resemble the desiccated ruins of an ancient civilization (“Tyrone Mine #3, Silver City, New Mexico, USA,” 2012). A taupe jigsaw of desert roads connecting brine wells evokes a circuit diagram (“Brine Wells #1, Salt Flats, Atacama Desert, Chile,” 2017). Burtynsky’s intricately patterned and textured landscapes possess a crop-formation exoticism; yet it turns out that we humans are the architects of this unnerving and seemingly alien terrain.
For all their considerable power, Burtynsky’s Romantic forms are in tension with their unromantic contents, a contrast articulated by the works’ informational titles. The Art Gallery of Ontario’s blockbuster Anthropocene exhibition — featuring rows of Burtynsky landscapes, accompanied by the like-minded films of Jennifer Baichwal and Nicolas de Pencier — handles this tension by placing the images’ labels on the floor, emphasizing their subordinate role. This apt and telling sightline hierarchy is of a piece with the landscapes themselves, whose aerial vantages position the viewer, god-like, above the fantastic scene. In rendering our species alien to itself, the images’ aestheticized, supra-human perspective reinforces our preference to marvel, on occasion, rather than confront daily, the spectacle of our own destructiveness. These exhilarating portrayals of civilization’s ecological self-estrangement are not quite the images we need, but they are the ones we deserve.
Anthropocene continues at The Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas St W, Toronto) through Jan. 6, 2019.
The Los Angeles-based photographer offers an updated version of the mythologized American cowboy, calling rodeos “the traditional drag of America.”
At its core Line Berg’s Fra Far manifests the anguish of a family whose loved one is convicted of a serious crime.
The Newark Museum of Art Presents Jazz Greats: Classic Photographs from the Bank of America Collection
Photographers Antony Armstrong Jones, Milt Hinton, Chuck Stewart, Barbara Morgan, and more capture a breadth of legendary and local musicians and performance artists. On view through August 21.
At first, simply watching people read In Search of Lost Time might seem dull; by the end, you’ll be itching to read or reread it yourself.
Duniyana Al-Amour was one of at least 44 Palestinians killed in Israel’s latest attack on Gaza.
Art and photographs, publications from the 19th and 20th centuries, manuscripts, posters and more are set to cross the auction block on August 18.
It is the first national museum in England to agree to restitute looted Benin items, increasing pressure on the British Museum to do the same.
The footprints, discovered on the salt flats of a US Air Force training site, are believed to date back to the last Ice Age.
An extraordinary variety of artists came to Jon Swihart and Kim Merrill’s backyard potlucks, discussing not just their work, but also the events and challenges of their lives.
With A Lion for Every House at the Art Institute of Chicago, Floating Museum riffs wildly on the art rental programs of some museums.
A Thing for the Mind takes Philip Guston’s 1978 painting “Story” as a starting point to examine the myriad ways in which this piece has filtered into the work of other painters.