Fine Art Meets Environmental Activism this Fall at the Carter

Release date: 
July 21, 2006

FORT WORTH, Texas --- The aesthetic of fine art meets the sentiment of environmental activism this fall at the Amon Carter Museum in a special exhibition that explores the drama and power of landscape photography as seen through the lenses of two of the art form’s most important color artists. Opening September 16, Regarding the Land: Robert Glenn Ketchum and the Legacy of Eliot Porter will be presented exclusively at the Carter, offering a rare opportunity to see together the work of these two internationally renowned fine art photographers who also played key roles in focusing public attention on environmental issues.

Eliot Porter (1901--1990) set the model and standard for color landscape photography in the 1950s and 1960s with lushly hued and delicately balanced close--ups of nature. His groundbreaking efforts led to the widespread acceptance of color photography as an artistic medium. Inspired by Porter’s work, Robert Glenn Ketchum (b. 1947) took up color landscape photography in the early 1970s, and today he is widely recognized as Porter’s successor. Like Porter before him, he has become a much heralded master at building broad political support through his photographs and books for cleaning up and protecting places of natural beauty and ecological importance. Regarding the Land will explore the two artists’ dedication to environmental causes, as well as the personal and professional influence that Porter had on Ketchum. The exhibition will also reveal their distinct differences and shed light on Ketchum’s penchant for experimentation and boldly moving the conversation of color landscape photography in new directions.

“Despite the similarity of Porter’s and Ketchum’s ends, the underlying impetus of each artist’s work is quite different,” said John Rohrbach, senior curator of photographs at the Carter. “Porter was at heart a scientist, albeit one with a remarkably imaginative and poetic eye. Ketchum, on the other hand, is at his core an artist. His photographs do not merely describe the world but are also tools for exploring how we see it.”

Ketchum’s passion for pushing the boundaries of landscape photography has evolved over time. At first, he directly challenged landscape conventions by greatly simplifying form and flattening space, while at the same time making stridently chaotic and oversized images. During the 1980s, he began contributing his large color photographs to support environmental causes, including images of industrial degradation in what would otherwise be pristine landscapes. By the 1990s, Ketchum was pushing the boundaries of expected color, light and texture. Today, Ketchum is exploring digital photography’s ability to deliver prints of ever-expanding size. He has been acknowledged by Audubon Magazine as one of the 100 people “who shaped the environmental movement of the 20th century.”

Regarding the Land will take visitors through each of these transitions, revealing how Ketchum draws regularly from Porter as he takes color landscape photography in new directions. The show concludes with Ketchum’s most dramatic efforts to test the limits of photographic depiction---eight highly detailed random-stitch silk embroidery translations of his photographs and one loom-woven interpretation. These incredible works, which range from two-sided table-top embroideries of impeccable detail to four-panel room screens measuring more than five feet in length, come from Ketchum’s 20--year collaboration with the master embroiderers at China’s premier Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 112--page catalogue published by the Amon Carter Museum. The book presents 75 of the exhibition’s 80 works, mostly as full-color plates, and includes essays by Ketchum and Amon Carter Museum Senior Curator of Photographs John Rohrbach.

Regarding the Land: Robert Glenn Ketchum and the Legacy of Eliot Porter is organized by the Amon Carter Museum. It is made possible in part by support from RBC Wealth Management.