Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Addison Revives the Spirit of The American Landscape

Previously, I blogged about the Art300 course offered at Phillips Academy and the four students who would organize a focused photography exhibition about American landscape. Above, students made their final selections for objects to be framed for the exhibition. On behalf of the student curators and the Addison staff, we invite you to the reception of The American Landscape or The Americans’ Landscape? on Thursday, May 29th from 6:30-8pm. The students will give a gallery talk at 7pm.

Together, the students wrote the following press release as part of their final assignment:

New Exhibition to be Unveiled on May 29 by PA Student Curators

On Thursday, May 29, the Addison Gallery of American Art, the academic art museum of Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., will unveil its final addition to its spring season shows: The American Landscape or The Americans’ Landscape?, an exploration into the evolution of the American landscape from the Addison’s permanent photography collection.

The exhibition was curated by four Phillips Academy students, as part of art instructor Elaine Crivelli’s Art 300 course, Visual Culture: Discovering the Addison. The Addison will welcome members of the Phillips Academy community as well as the general public to the exhibition’s opening reception.

The inaugural viewing will include remarks by the exhibition’s co-curators, Alexander Heffner ’08, Stephanie Schuyler ’08, Naomi Sobelson ’08, and Kelsey Thorn ’08. The curators write to viewers: In this exhibit, serene natural beauty collides with artificial elements to document the transformation from the American landscape to the Americans’ landscape. In capturing the complex tension between the coexisting forces of land and people, the photographs suggest that neither force dominates over the other—at least not for long. These selections from the Addison collection tell a distinctly American story of exploration, recreation, industrialization, and destruction.

Stephanie Schuyler, one the exhibit’s co-curators, said, “At least for me personally, in seeing reflections of the human attitude toward our environment over the course of American history, I was truly forced to reconsider how I see the world around me. It is not until one can see the visual trace of the human presence that one realizes how powerful it can be.”

Elaine Crivelli, who oversaw the student-led exhibition says, “I think it exemplifies how four students, each with his or her own perceptions of art, collaborated on a thought provoking exhibition. Through the process of viewing and analyzing photographs, discussion, research and writing over the course of nine weeks, the exhibition successfully examines the dynamic and sometimes destructive relationship between mankind and the natural environment.”

The range of photographs is strikingly diverse, with shots from New Hampshire, California, Alabama, New Jersey, California, and Utah; of geysers, windswept sedges, the water’s edge, grassy hillsides, and mountains; from 1885 to mid-20th century up until 1994. Notable photographers include F. Jay Haynes, William Eggleston, Ansel Adams, Arthur Wesley Dow, and William Henry Jackson.

Brian Allen, director of the Addison, embraced the museum’s newest exhibit and its selected works. “The Addison’s great collection of landscape photographs is here to serve the students. I’m delighted to see so many curators-in-training select and interpret some of these great treasures. I think the installation the students created is a sensitive and beautiful one. “

On display until July 13, Allen urged the Phillips Academy community to view The American Landscape or The Americans’ Landscape? “They worked hard, learned a lot, and I am sure our visitors, especially the families coming to graduation and the visiting alumni the next week, will love what they did.”

Alongside the student-led exhibit, the current shows on display at the Addison are Accommodating Nature: The Photographs of Frank Gohlke, an inspiring and complementary collection of American landscape photographs, Then and Now, a collection of “superlative examples of the Addison’s expansive collection,” and Carroll Dunham Prints: A Survey, over 100 creative graphic prints.

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Posted by Jaime DeSimone, Charles H. Sawyer Curatorial Fellow

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