Eyes on America

Ansel Adams at PS1 is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

The Daily Pic: A classic photographer is back in the vanguard.

(Collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; © 2013 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust)

This is Ansel Adams’s “Mount Williamson, Sierra Nevada, from Manzanar, California”, shot in around 1944 and now in a fascinating group show called “Expo 1: New York” that opened yesterday at PS1 in Queens. The show comes at issues of ecology and our planetary fate from all sorts of classically avant-garde angles, but its most daring move may be its inclusion of several rooms of photos by Adams, not normally a name to conjure with out on the cutting edge. Rather than rehearsing standard notions about the beauty and formal brilliance of Adams’s photographic art, the show treats him as a real purveyor of ideas and information about the American environment and our place in it. (The inclusion of multiple shots of single sites is especially clever.) One thing I think the curators left out: The place in Adams’s art of an ethos and aesthetics of mechanization. If such notions seem out of place in a discussion of Adams, take a look at my essay on a show of his landscapes held a few years ago at the Corcoran in D.C. – it may be the best thing I’ve written.

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