With a photographic style that is austere and direct yet also full of nuance and expressive potential, Robert Adams (Orange, New Jersey, 1937) has been widely regarded as one of the most lucid chroniclers of the profound changes taking place in the landscape of the American West in recent decades. His black-and-white images of roads lost in the horizon, of deforested woods or residential and shopping complexes in which solitary figures wander, describe and lament the enormous impact (in both environmental and in social and cultural terms) that urban development and the over-exploitation of natural resources have had on the territory.
Adams portrays this transformation in an aseptic and distant manner, avoiding dramatic emphasis or explicit judgements. With this seemingly neutral gaze, he engages in a critical reflection on questions such as the always troubled relationship between civilization and nature, or the loss of connection with the land in contemporary societies. However, his work also contains a certain dimension of hope: in it there is an unceasing search for beauty and balance, an effort to find, even in the most heavily-altered landscapes, flashes of life, signs that a (re)conciliation between humanity and its surroundings is still possible.
The Place We Live, the first retrospective exhibition on Robert Adams to be shown to Spain, leads viewers through the main projects undertaken by this photographer (projects for the most part initially conceived as books). The works on display range from the series on some of Colorado’s rural settings and monuments that he made in the mid sixties (The Plains, Late Hispanic Settlement, Ludlow) to the first works in which he criticized the perverse effects of urban expansion in the American West (Eden, The New West, What We Bought); from his evocative images of outlying residential areas at dusk (Summer Nights) or of majestic natural sites marked by human intervention (From the Missouri West) to the projects in which he harshly depicts the consequences of pollution and deforestation (Los Angeles Spring, Our Parents, Our Children, Turning Back) or in which he offers a more lyrical vision of the landscape (The Pawnee National Grassland, Along Some Rivers, The Pacific, Pine Valley, Alder Leaves, Sea Stories, This Day).
Exhibition and publications conceived by Joshua Chuang, Associate Curator of Photography and Digital Media, and Jock Reynolds, Henry J. Heinz II Director, both at the Yale University Art Gallery. Made possible by Yale alumni and friends: Helen D. Buchanan; Allan K. Chasanoff; Nathaniel W. Gibbons; Betsy and Frank Karel; Saundra B. Lane; Melanie and Rick Mayer and the MFUNd; Mark McCain and Caro MacDonald/Eye and I; Mr and Mrs Alexander K. McLanahan; Ms Eliot Nolen and Mr Timothy P. Bradley; Risher Randall, Senior; the Reed Foundation; the Shamos Family Foundation; Mary Jo and Ted P. Shen; Jane P. Watkins; the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund; and by the funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. The acquisition of Robert Adams’ master prints was made possible through a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund, and by the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund.
Dates: January 16 – May 20, 2013
Place: Sabatini Building, Floor 3
Curators: Jock Reynolds and Joshua Chuang
Organised by: Yale University Art Gallery in collaboration with Museo Reina Sofía