|Dryland Farming #2, Monegros County, |
Aragon, Spain, 2010
April 22, 2015
Long before California’s drought became severe enough for the state’s governor to restrict water use, Canadian artist Edward Burtynsky had started speaking out, through intense large-scale color landscape photographs, about the urgency of protecting one of our planet’s most endangered natural resource.
Through arresting bird’s-eye images of water use around the world—from elaborately planted rice paddies and massive dams in China to oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico, and erosion in Iceland—Burtynsky has captured the astounding impact, and strange beauty, of human intervention on the Earth. “Nature Transformed,” the inaugural show of Burtynsky’s work at Los Angeles’s Von Lintel Gallery, is a rare opportunity to see many of his most striking images all together, on view from April 25 through June 20.
While Burtynsky is certainly coming to his subject matter through environmental activism, his photos are often breathtaking, and he clearly has an eye for a good shot. His sweeping landscapes show the intense colors and formal patterns that industrialization has wrought on the planet—electric yellow, geometric fields of canola; fiery orange rivers snaking through blackened hills—in the way that some of our most poetic abstract painters might capture form, except, of course, these photos are not staged or altered.
In his series on Spain’s dryland farms—waterless land cultivated for crops without irrigation—swaths of brown earth are embellished with miles of botanic-like patterns worthy of a luxury textile, while aerial views of copper-color pivot irrigation systems in the Texas Panhandle have a highly artistic serial effect. Although his images can be disturbing and disheartening, they do give hope in the human ability to find poetry in everyday life.
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