New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape

BCAM, Level 2
October 25, 2009–January 3, 2010

A restaging of the landmark exhibition first seen in 1975 at the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House. "New Topographics" signaled the emergence of a new photographic approach to landscape: romanticization gave way to cooler appraisal, focused on the everyday built environment and more attuned to conceptual concerns of the broader art field. More than two-thirds of the photographs by the original ten participants—Robert AdamsLewis BaltzBernd and Hilla BecherJoe DealFrank GohlkeNicholas NixonJohn SchottStephen Shore, and Henry Wessel, Jr.—are displayed. An accompanying presentation of works by influential photographers and thinkers offers historic context, including Timothy O’Sullivan, Walker Evans, Ed Ruscha, Robert Smithson, and Dan Graham, as well as architect team Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, with their publication Learning from Las Vegas (1972), an ode to the “ugly and ordinary.” A final video installation by the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI), commissioned by LACMA, explores oil’s central role in the development of the American landscape. CLUI’s contemporary response to the legacy of "New Topographics" suggests an ongoing concern for man’s use of the land.

Curator at LACMA: Edward Robinson, Photography.

New Topographics was organized by the Center for Creative Photography, the University of Arizona, and the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film.

The Los Angeles presentation of New Topographics is made possible through a generous gift from LACMA’s Photographic Arts Council.

Image: Bernd and Hilla Becher (Germany, 1931-2007 and b. 1934), Loomis Coal Breaker/Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, 1974, gelatin silver prints, 8 prints; each 16 x 12 in., lent by Hilla Becher in association with Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne © Hilla Becher, 2009.