The Vernacular in Place exhibition was on view in the Van Deren Coke Gallery October 16, 2015 – December 12, 2015
Curated by Miguel Gandert, Distinguished Professor of Communications and Journalism, and Chris Wilson, J. B. Jackson Chair of Cultural Landscape Studies
Starting in the 1600s, painters of romantic landscapes (and two centuries later, many photographers) composed picturesquely balanced views of nature, often punctuated by a small classical ruin or snippet of rural life. Yet from the invention of photography in France in 1839, and its quick embrace in the English-speaking world, Edouard Baldus, Francis Frith, and Carlton E. Watkins, among others, captured panoramas of the traditional and industrializing city. Such others as Eugene Atget, Walker Evans, and Henri Cartier-Bresson walked its streets reveling in the overlooked details of the everyday, vernacular landscape. The first half of Vernacular in Place samples the canon of landscape photography as taught and collected at UNM by historian Beaumont Newhall and founding director of the Art Museum, Van Deren Coke, in the 1960s and 70s—decades when UNM was arguably the leading international center of photo history and studio photography.
These decades also witnessed successes in the civil rights, anti-colonial and environmental movements, and the rise of an international youth counterculture and grassroots mobilization against the Viet Nam War. Amid this combination of an emerging photo historical consciousness, and a broader anti-authoritarian spirit, a younger generation of photographers—many UNM students, alumni and faculty—reacted against the canon of landscape photography best embodied in those days by Ansel Adams, who consciously edited out signs of modern society. Lee Freidlander, Steve Fitch, and Thomas Barrow, as well as a group assembled in the New Topographics exhibition of 1977, including Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, and Nicholas Nixon, instead stepped back to include telephone poles and cobra-headed street lamps, and to turn their cameras on gas stations, industrial parks, and newly-built suburban houses pushing into the desert. Their cool, deadpan, ironic, yet loving embrace of the contemporary vernacular landscape resonates in the work of landscape photographers down to this day.
In addition to the photographers already mentioned, the exhibition also includes works by Kenneth Winston Baird, Hilla ?? and Bernd Becher, Sabine Delcour Gus, Foster, Lynn Geesaman, Deborah Hunter, William Henry Jackson, Danny Lyon, Joan Meyer, Beaumont Newhall, Bernard Plossu, Edward Ruscha, David Stephenson, Edward Weston and Steve Yates.
The exhibit has been developed in coordination with the PhotoPaysage/ LandscapeRepresentation conference, October 15-17, 2015, a French/American dialogue on the role of photography in changing conceptions of landscape and the exhibition, “Photographic Notes on the Road: J. B. Jackson, 1955-1989,” October 15 – November 9, School of Architecture and Planning Gallery.