Date: January 25, 2020 - May 5, 2020


Phone: 413-597-2429
Website (click here)
Williams College Museum of Art
15 Lawrence Hall Drive, Route 1
Williamstown, MA 01267

Landmarks, the first survey of its robust photography holdings. Featuring 117 works spanning 120 years, the exhibition explores how human beings have used photographic processes to orient and define themselves in relation to the natural and built environment.

The works on view are selected for their resonance with the multivalent term “landmark”­ and can be explored along four thematic pathways: landmark events, buildings as landmarks, landmark features of specific environments, and landmark impressions. The majority of the photographs in the exhibition focus on the human altered landscape and the tension between natural and built environments. Evoking current conversations around climate change, space colonization, and the impact of technologies that have major repercussions for our species, Robert Misrach’s haunting Desert Croquet #1 (Deflated World) of 1987 is featured, as well as evocative images from the archives of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Other works such as those by LaToya Ruby Frazier, Fabrice Monteiro, and James H. Karales bring issues of social justice, poverty, racism, and inequality to the fore.

This survey exhibition affirms WCMA’s commitment to collecting, exhibiting, and teaching with works that provoke conversation and research on the most important questions of our time. “Photography comprises roughly one-quarter of the museum collection and has been an area of focused growth over the past few decades, through both generous gifts and museum acquisitions,” states Class of 1956 Director Pamela Franks. “Landmarks showcases how the museum continues to collect with an eye toward greater inclusivity and diversity of artist identities and global perspectives. The photographs on view lend themselves to rich educational experiences for Williams College students and faculty and for all museum visitors.”

For nearly 200 years, human imagination and reason have returned to specific photographic images of certain places again and again, lending some the status of “landmark” works in the history of photography. WCMA has collected some of these great examples of nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century ingenuity in the framing of place by artists such as Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Robert Adams, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Edward Burtynsky, Harry Callahan, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Barbara Morgan, Walter

Rosenblum, Raghubir Singh, Aaron Siskind, Garry Winogrand, and Marion Post Wolcott. In the current presentation, these luminaries are arranged in concert with contemporary voices building upon, and challenging, repertoires of site and sight such as Oliver Boberg, Gregory Crewdson, Christina Fernandez, Dionisio González, Andreas Gursky, Daniel Kukla, Susan Meiselas, Elle Pérez, and Alec Soth.

In conjunction with the exhibition, curator of American art Horace Ballard teaches a seminar course titled Landscape, Theory, Ideology and invites the public to join two class conversations in the exhibition. WCMA also welcomes guest scholars and artists, including Clifton Granby and Michael Kolster, to be part of public programs that encourage discourse around the ethical, environmental, and political issues raised by the works on view. The exhibition asks, but does not seek to answer, the question “What is a landscape?” Instead, visitors are invited to answer it for themselves, and in relation to each image they encounter. Ballard writes in Field Notes, the exhibition publication: “To my thinking, a landscape is not a genre; it is rather a technique, tool, or mode of envisioning the world and our relationship to it—with all the real and metaphorical sense of constancy and change that technological innovations to human sight would imply. Each photographer defines a landscape differently. In our role as viewers, each of us will take something unique from our communion with these objects.”

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