Accommodating nature - The Explorer: El Sol

Accommodating nature

Photographer's work on display at University of Arizona

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Posted: Tuesday, September 2, 2008 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:04 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

A major mid-career retrospective, “Accommodating Nature: The Photographs of Frank Gohlke,” is on display through Nov. 2 at the Center for Creative Photography on the University of Arizona campus.

An artist’s reception and discussion featuring Gohlke, a leading landscape photographer, and director and chief curator Britt Salvesen is set for Friday, Sept. 5. A reception begins at 5 p.m., with discussion at 6 p.m.

Gohlke joined the UA School of Art faculty as a photography professor last year.

“The center is pleased to benefit from this opportunity where the artist is part of the staff at the University and can engage with students and participates in the presentation of the exhibition,” said Salvesen.

For more than 30 years, Gohlke has “taken photographs that depict how Americans build their lives within a natural world that rarely matches the pastoral ideal,” a release said. “Whether photographing vast spaces of the Midwest punctuated by grain elevators, the close confines of the Sudbury River in Massachusetts, or the aftermath of the 1980 volcanic eruption of Washington state’s Mount St. Helens, Gohlke draws attention to the boundaries between humanity and nature.”

With 85 black-and-white and color photographs ranging in size up to 42-by-54 inches, “Accommodating Nature” surveys Gohlke’s 35-year career. It begins with Gohlke’s participation in the seminal 1975 group exhibition “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape” at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, N.Y.

The UA show includes two of Gohlke’s most important bodies of work: depictions of destruction and rebuilding after a devastating tornado struck Wichita Falls in 1979 and a multi-year investigation of the effects of the massive volcanic explosion that blew off the top of Mount St. Helens in 1980. A major exhibition of his large-format landscape photographs of Mount St. Helens was presented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2005.

Large-scale color photographs of the Sudbury River in Massachusetts created between 1989 and 1992 capture pastoral New England while revealing the complexity of an overgrown river that has been taken for granted. Photographs from commissions and grants from Mississippi to Queens, N.Y., draw attention to people’s active accommodations to nature across wide stretches of the country, in rural and urban settings alike.

The present exhibition, organized by John Rohrbach, senior curator of photographs at the Amon Carter Museum, is accompanied by a catalogue that features essays by Rohrbach, Gohlke, and cultural historian Rebecca Solnit.

Gohlke was educated at the University of Texas and Yale. At Yale, Gohlke met Walker Evans, and then studied privately with Paul Caponigro.

The show is supported financially by the Perkins-Prothro Foundation, Exelon Power, and the Vin and Caren Prothro Foundation.

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