“Altered Landscapes,” a new exhibition showcasing work from the Akron Art Museum collection, opened Feb. 14, 2015. Landscape has long been a subject of art, but the contemporary artworks included in “Altered Landscapes” expand our understanding of landscape with imaginative and sometimes fanciful work.
“We wanted to re-approach the subject by sharing works from the collection that take innovative approaches to landscape motifs,” said Janice Driesbach, chief curator. “And we are delighted to be presenting art works that are new to our collection or have not been on view recently. These include the remarkable ten-foot scroll “Three Gorges Dam Migration” by Yun-Fei Ji, addressing the destruction of thousands of villages as a result of the construction of the monumental Yangtze River dam. For his composition, Ji uses a style and format that evokes traditional Chinese painting techniques. However, the dress and possessions of the tenderly-portrayed figures indicate that the events depicted in the ten-foot-long scroll are recent.”
As the Industrial Revolution spurred urban settlement, artists increasingly turned their attention to landscape. Initially their work focused on pastoral views and topographically-accurate representations. Over the years, the landscape itself has been dramatically altered–with exploration, settlement, and development overtaking wilderness in many parts of the world. As few pristine views remain and contemporary artists explore a multitude of styles and ideas, outdoor settings have become sources for creating fanciful compositions, sharing personal perspectives or conveying social commentary. All of these approaches are represented in “Altered Landscapes,” allowing viewers to explore questions about how we conceive of landscape and how we interact with our surroundings.
Viewers are invited to compare Wayne Thiebaud’s “River and Slough,” sketched from nature near the artist’s home and completed in the studio, with views that Randall Tiedman and Joseph Yoakum created from imagination. A lifelong Cleveland resident, Randall Tiedman focused his interest on painting following his retirement. “Limbus Patrum #7” is exemplary of the dark late paintings the artist composed, informed by his intimate understanding of the industrial networks and bleak sites he had traversed throughout his life. In contrast, Yoakum’s colorful “Mt. Banda Banda in Great Dividing Range near Kempsey Australia” references an actual site, but is likely to have been inspired by magazine photographs rather than the artist’s purported travels.
Some artists literally transform their surroundings while others transform pre-existing images by placing them in new contexts. Barry Underwood utilizes his experience in stage design to construct temporary installations in natural settings. The mysterious view “North Bar Lake II,” photographed in a long nighttime exposure in rural Michigan, was achieved by placing glow sticks underwater and in balloons. Lilian Tyrrell’s “Disaster Blanket/Religious Warfare” features a media photograph from the Ira- Iraq War as its centerpiece. The contrast between the artist’s use of materials traditionally associated with warmth and safety and the disturbing imagery of modern warfare heightens the impact of her tapestry.
Also on view are a painting by Peter Dean, a print by James McGarrell, a photograph by Meridel Rubenstein, a sculpture by Mark Soppeland and other works in various media.
Visit AkronArtMuseum.org/collection to learn about more landscapes in the Akron Art Museum collection.
The Akron Art Museum is at One South High in downtown Akron.