All posts in “New Topographics”

New Topographics: Instantly (in)Famous

When viewing New Topographics, you’ll want to lean in and look closely—on close inspection you discover the dead-pan humor as well as the disquiet in seeing the land sliced up and rapidly developed in this group of photography.

This new installation at SAM brings together a group of photographers who became widely known through a 1975 exhibition at the George Eastman House. What made all the work instantly (in)famous was that the artists turned their back on celebrated landscape imagery.

Landscape as wild and tempestuous (think Bierstadt) or picturesque was set aside. Instead, artists such as Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, Stephen Shore, and others trained their cameras on new housing developments that turned farmland into suburbia, or looked at the topography of cities.

In addition to the new subject of man-altered landscape, the photographers also created a new aesthetic: Modern photography had become known for stark black and white contrast and dramatic perspectives, while the New Topographics photographers had a decidedly quiet and descriptive approach.

A lone beer bottle here, wires and hookups there, are anything but grand but then the piles of dirt come with glamorous titles such as Prospector Park.

In addition to some of the artists who were featured in the original 1975 show, included are artworks that are related and expand this vision into other directions. Thus you will find Mark Tobey’s early painting, Middle West, in an entirely new context. You will also discover several of the great artist books by Ed Ruscha—whose work was very influential to this new generation. Last not least, you will find several of Howard Kottler’s “souvenir plates” that are adorned with birds-eye views of downtown Seattle. (Watch out for his dead-pan humor.)

While you’re visiting, sit down with photocopies of the original New Topographics catalogue and text as well as Robert Smithson’s groundbreaking and fabulously written essay: “A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey.”

The rapid transformation of the urban and suburban areas of Seattle by new development right now provide a new context for the work of these artists. See New Topographics on view through the end of the year.

– Catharina Manchanda, Jon and Mary Shirely Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Images: Installation view of New Topographics at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photos: Stephanie Fink
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Muse/News: Love at the museum, Afrofuturistic visions, and painting the blues

SAM News

Travel + Leisure was among those sharing the results of OkCupid’s 2018 Dater’s Choice Awards; in Seattle, SAM was singled out as the “Spot That Sparks Conversation.” Come fall in love at the museum!

Wall Street Journal subscribers: Don’t miss this review by photographer William Meyers of New Topographics, an installation now on view on the museum’s third floor.

Jeffrey Gibson: Like A Hammer is now on view at the Denver Art Museum and heads to SAM early 2019; Kealey Boyd of Hyperallergic dives into questions found in the exhibition.

“Does it make sense to distinguish Native American art today from other contemporary art? Does the category perpetuate generalizations and patterns of thinking? By blurring Native and non-Native elements, Gibson keeps these questions alive and insures that the art remains central to our answers.”

Local News

If you miss Mickalene Thomas like we do at SAM, go see the new show at the Henry Art Gallery. Margo Vansynghel of City Arts interviewed the artist about her intimate show that features photography, video, and one of the artist’s signature “living room” installations.

Brangien Davis of Crosscut on Coming Soon, an installation appearing across several Central District parks of construction notice-like signs that appear like “Afrofuturistic visions of a dream deferred.”

Emily Pothast has a fantastic story on Hyperallergic about AFTER LIFE (what remains) at Alice Gallery, a recent group show featuring Indigenous and Asian Pacific American artists.

“What does it mean to own the land? In a nation founded on violence against indigenous peoples, the question invites us to examine our own complicity in perpetuating that violence. Ownership is a powerful designation, and yet it is ultimately fleeting when we consider the possibility of mass extinction. Perhaps the only way to truly inhabit a place forever is to haunt it.”

Inter/National News

The New York Times continues its important Overlooked obituary series, revisiting the fascinating and tragic life of Amrita Sher-Gil (1913–1941), who they call a “pioneer of modern Indian art.”

“That was Sacha Baron Cohen? What a nutcase. God bless him.” I gotta give this round to Christy Cones. Artnet’s Naomi Rea on how the Laguna Beach art consultant fared on the comedian’s new show, “Who Is America?”

Antwaun Sargent for Artsy interviews Henry Taylor, the 60-year-old Los Angeles-based artist whose first major monograph about his work (once called “the visual equivalent of the blues”) is due out this fall.

“Throughout his career, Taylor has remained committed to uncovering stories—about his family, about black people, about power and despair. ‘My painting is about…trying to be about some love shit, you know what I mean?’ the artist said.”

And Finally

Barbara Kruger for New York Magazine.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Photo: Robert Wade
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