Trend Watch: Landscapes and Beasts, Oh My!


Taking a stroll through the clusterfuck of Chelsea gallery openings last night, we noticed a major theme developing in contemporary photography. Sad white people are out. Building on the archetypal notion of man vs. nature, photographers are adding and subtracting creatures into the equation, resulting in man vs. man, man vs. beast, and nature vs. nature. Still with us? Photo evidence after the jump.

Amy Stein, In Between, from Domesticated at Clamp Art. Courtesy of the artist.

Amy Stein, showing through October 31 at Clamp Art, photographs “modern dioramas of our new natural history” that highlight the obtrusiveness of “wildlife” in pedestrian suburban and rural landscapes. The images, imbued with the psychology behind the opposing forces of comfort and fear, are based on true-life stories gleaned from local newspapers and oral history from a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Simen Johan’s Untitled #132 (2005) and Untitled #153 (2008) from the series Until the Kingdom Comes at Yossi Milo. Courtesy of the artist.

Hovering between “reality, fantasy, and nightmare,” Simen Johan solo exhibition Until the Kingdom Comes at Yossi Milo merge traditional photographic techniques with digital mashups of animals in the wild, in captivity, or stuffed as taxidermy. The images of beasts, set in hyperrealistic landscapes, blur the line between photography and sculpture and comment on the primal experiences shared by animals and their human voyeurs.

Todd Hido 6097 (2006) and 6415 (2007) from A Road Divided at Bruce Silverstein Gallery.

Todd Hido’s painterly images from A Road Divided at Silverstein Gallery revisit the rural landscapes of Middle America, last seen in his acclaimed series Roaming. The savage, sublime snapshots of scenery populated only with the road ahead evoke a simultaneous sense of nostalgia and foreboding, the classic struggle of man versus himself.

Edwin Zwakman Later… (2001) at Aperture Gallery’s Nature as Artifice exhibition. © Edwin Zwakman.

Meanwhile, Aperture Foundation Gallery presents an anesthetized view of Dutch landscape, no longer the pastoral scenery of the Northern Renaissance but urbanize, altered, and “depicting the Netherlands as the most artificial country in the world.” With hardly a living being in sight (save for a few innocent birdies combing a beach near industrial parkland, below), the Nature as Artifice exhibition forecasts a daunting vision of what happens after man has wreaked his havoc on nature.

Jannes Linder, Untitled from “Landscape in the Netherlands,” at Aperture Gallery’s Nature as Artifice exhibition. © Jannes Linder.