“Photography’s dynamic relationship to the landscape can be traced to the origins of the medium, when the camera offered a revolutionary method for recording the world. The 19th century witnessed a range of approaches, from land surveys that systematically documented the topography of unsettled regions, to artistic depictions of nature’s majesty that rivaled landscape painting. Beginning in the 1960s, many artists sought novel approaches to representing their surroundings by incorporating personal, critical, and symbolic references to their work. Mapping Space: Recent Acquisitions in Focus, on view February 26-July 14, 2019 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, features a selection of recently acquired works by artists whose photographic views have been informed by new ways of thinking about a familiar subject.
On view at the Getty for the first time are works by five artists: Robert Kinmont (American, born 1937), Wang Jinsong (Chinese, born 1963), Richard Long (English, born 1945), Mark Ruwedel (American/Canadian, born 1954), and Uta Barth (German, born 1958). These artists draw from a variety of influences, ranging from photography’s documentary tradition to Conceptual Art, a movement that first gained significance during the 1960s for its prioritization of ideas over the production of objects. Operating against conventional notions of landscape photography, each of these artists has developed his or her own approach to site-specific spaces.
“The In Focus gallery in the Center for Photographs provides us an opportunity to highlight the Museum’s collection in telling ways, frequently with thematic overviews of the history of the medium, or, as in this case, by emphasizing recently acquired works that indicate an area of collecting interest,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Spanning almost half a century, from the late 1960s to 2012, the works in this presentation build on the Museum’s important holdings of landscape photography while revealing the importance of site-specificity and a personal response to our environment.”
Destruction, symbolism, and power are encapsulated in Wang Jinsong’s series One Hundred Signs of the Demolition(1998). Depicting brick walls painted with the Chinese character “chai,” which translates to “tear down,” these photographs document buildings slated for demolition in order to make way for new construction. The artist’s decision to focus on a written notice that signals demolition instead of the act, or the aftermath, serves as a quiet critique of a carefully coordinated government practice of the 1990s that discarded vestiges of the past to accommodate rapid growth in cities such as Beijing. The massive scale of these prints, their extreme frontal view, and the elimination of all architectural surrounds heighten the immediacy of this programmatic urban transformation.“
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