Photography’s relationship to the landscape can be traced to the origins of the medium. The 19th century witnessed a range of approaches, from land surveys that systematically documented the topography of unsettled regions, to artistic depictions of nature 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, opening February 26, 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 documentary to conceptual. Operating against conventional notions of landscape photography, each of these artists has developed his or her own approach to site-specific spaces.
Robert Kinmont’s photographs of the landscape emphasize the mundane over the majestic.
Destruction, symbolism, and power are encapsulated in Wang Jinsong’s series One Hundred Signs of the Demolition (1998).
Richard Long’s iconic work A Line Made by Walking (1967) depicts a field outside of London in which the grass has been flattened in a straight line by the artist’s footsteps.
Mark Ruwedel’s We All Loved Ruscha (15 Apts.) (2011-2012) is deeply informed by the legacy of Conceptual Art, a movement that first gained significance during the 1960s for its prioritization of ideas over the production of objects. In returning to the urban and suburban locations of the apartment buildings originally captured by the artist Ed Ruscha, Ruwedel pays homage to a project that is widely associated with defining the tone of West Coast Conceptual photography.
Photography’s perceived ability to faithfully describe the environment has long been a central concern for Uta Barth. Made between 1981 and 1982, the nine untitled gelatin silver prints in this exhibition present some of her earliest investigations of the medium’s limitations in conveying the spatial dimensions of a specific area.
Mapping Space: Recent Acquisitions in Focus
February 26-July 14, 2019
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center
Curated by Arpad Kovacs, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum