Robert Adams. Turning Back – Landscapes
Exhibition 29.06 – 25.09.05
"I am not disturbed by the landscape. What disturbs me is people and that they take such little care." (Robert Adams)
During the Federal Garden Show (Bundesgartenschau) BUGA 2005, which takes place under the motto "Perspective Change" from April to September 2005 in Munich, the Haus der Kunst is presenting the world premiere of Robert Adams’s new series, "Turning Back", in cooperation with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. For more than four decades, this American photographer has documented nature’s transition in the west and northwest of his homeland from a natural to a cultural landscape. His extensive series result in a unique compendium in the world of photography with regard to changes in the contemporary term "landscape", a "perspective change" with regards to our perception of the landscape and its limited resources.
Robert Adams was born in 1937 and returned to Colorado after finishing his studies, which included a doctorate, in California. He worked as an assistant professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs until the mid-sixties after which he concentrated exclusively on photography. In 1979 the Museum of Modern Art in New York granted him his first solo exhibition. Some years ago, Adams moved to Oregon, to Astoria, a small town right on the Pacific coast. It was in this region that Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson’s secretary, and William Clark headed an expedition at the wish of the American President which was intended to explore trade routes in this as yet uncharted area.
The expedition, which ended in 1805, also served the purpose of personal enrichment and lasted several years. Following robberies, illness and many trials and hardships, they finally arrived at the Pacific. Robert Adams suspects that going west was easier than the road back east as the destination was not yet known. Lewis and Clark reported the discovery of a vast forest of ancient conifers. This primeval forest consisted of trees that were between 500 and 1000 years old, had a diameter of more than 3.5 meters and reached heights of more than 65 meters.
The 164-photograph "Turning Back" series looks back at the effects of progress. The work is laid out in the fashion of a journey around the American Northwest. The subtitle "A Photographic Journal of Re-exploration" characterizes the work as a matter-of-fact photographic record. "But I kept asking myself what subject is here, what should be dealt with? Interior Oregon slowly revealed itself to be the site of one of the major ecological disasters on this continent. The place used to have among the most remarkable rain forests in the world. In the last 50 years it has been ruined." (Robert Adams).
This new series begins on the Pacific coast and follows the expedition route taken by Lewis and Clark 200 years ago in the opposite direction. Starting from the expedition’s natural end, the Pacific, Adams travels over the coastal mountain range into rural Oregon, where the timber industry has irrevocably and deeply damaged 90% of the natural landscape through clearing and reforestation carried out over the last several decades.
The series ends 700 kilometers inside the country’s interior in a cultural landscape, which is the outcome of a far-reaching cultivation and solicitude for the country. With this Adams exhibits the potential that lies in an intact landscape that is accessible and gives us the opportunity to regenerate ourselves. These are, for Adams, basic human rights that he sees threatened by the destruction of the landscape.
Excerpts from earlier series (The New West, 1974; From the Missouri West, 1980; Our Lives & Our Children, Photographs Taken Near the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant, New York 1983; Listening to the River – Seasons in the American West, 1994 and West from the Columbia. Views at the River Mouth, 1995) by Robert Adams are on view in the first room of the exhibition in the Haus der Kunst and are intended to demonstrate the various approaches of the artist’s year-long preoccupation with landscape.
Robert Adams is represented with his photographs in renowned international collections and his series have been presented in numerous solo and group exhibitions and published in more than ten monographs. He has been awarded several Guggenheim Fellowships and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships as well as the distinguished MacArthur Foundation Award. In 1995 Adams was awarded the Spectrum – Internationaler Preis für Fotografie der Stiftung Niedersachsen and granted his only solo exhibition in Germany to date in the Sprengel Museum Hannover.
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