Stunning Visions of American West in Group f/64, Misrach Photos at Autry



A new exhibition of more than 80 stunning photos by Group f/64 members and Richard Misrach opened today at the Autry Museum of the American West in the Griffith Park area of Los Angeles. Entitled “Revolutionary Vision,” the Autry display offers striking images by many of the premier photographers shooting the California landscape in the last century, including Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham and Misrach.

On view at the Autry from June 4, 2016, through Jan. 8, 2017, “Revolutionary Vision” exhibition explores the intertwined legacies of two generations of California artists and their portrayal of the changing Western landscape. The photos, which are part of Bank of America’s collection, exemplify the arc of photography as a medium in the 20th century, through the work of f/64 members during the 1920s to 1940s as well as Misrach’s pieces from the 1980s and 1990s.

The f/64 group sought to maximize use of the camera as a technological “vision” device and fought for photography to be acknowledged as an autonomous art form. They advocated using the f/64 aperture (hence their name) to provide the greatest depth of field, which allowed for more items in nature to be shown in sharp focus and dramatic tonal depth. Many of Edward Weston’s images used close-up looks that transformed every day objects into something extraordinary, such as his famous series on peppers or his artichokes. Willard Van Dyke focused largely on architectural elements, whereas Imogen Cunningham showed plant details, but their visions, like Weston’s, transformed the subject matter. Adams’ pieces in the show include an assortment of landscapes that run the gamut from his classic, romantic Yosemite shots to crisp modernistic ones. The work of Edward’s son, Brett, offers dramatic landscapes, such as his images of White Sands, New Mexico.

Misrach was directly influenced by f/64 and the way they saw the natural world. Talking about the influence of great landscape photographers like Adams and Edward Weston, he noted, “The formal beauty of the f/64 Group got under my skin. At the same time, I found myself at the center of the cultural and political revolution that was the sixties. Little surprise that I have been trying to reconcile these two poles ever since.”

Misrach used color film and monumental prints for the resulting environmental or political commentaries in his photos that can be subtly disquieting on close examination. His pieces range from romantic hazes or clouds to images showing the negative effect of humans on nature, such as his photo of the Pacific Ocean, which is shown with oil derricks in the distance. Some of Misrach’s best-known series are represented in the Autry exhibition, such as “Clouds” and the “Salton Sea.”

“Viewing the works of Misrach and his f/64 progenitors together is an eye-opening experience,” commented the Autry’s chief curator, Amy Scott. Noting that each body of work represents an artistic phenomenon, “Together they offer a conversation with one another on the complex and, at times, contradictory notions of aesthetic and environmental purity in the twentieth- and twenty-first-century American West,” she added.

The museum display is set up so visitors can enter from either photographic era, and wind up in the other photographic camp. In between, there is a section juxtaposing images that show the two differing perspectives. For example, one middle area pairing shows shadows from plants creating lines on the ground in an Adams piece with lines from ATV tire tracks as scars on the landscape between plants in a Misrach piece.

“We are pleased to partner with Bank of America to exhibit so many masterworks of photography,” said W. Richard West, Jr., the Autry’s President and CEO. The bank has transformed its art collection into a unique community resource for museums and nonprofit galleries through their Art in our Communities™ program. The Autry is one of more than 100 U.S. museums that offer free admission the first full weekend (Sat. and Sun.) of each month to those with a Photo ID and a valid Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card. So, those cardholders wanting to see the stunning Visions of American West displayed in Group f/64 and Misrach Photos now on display at Autry could take advantage this weekend.

Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss

Visit to the Exhibition
The Autry: Revolutionary Vision: Group f/64 and Richard Misrach Photographs From the Bank of America Collection
Architectural Digest: Richard Misrach’s Monumental Photographs
The Metropolitan Museum of Art:Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Group f/64

Photo of “Untitled, Dunes, White Sands, New Mexico” by Brett Weston 1946, gelatin silver print. Copyright The Brett Weston Archive, brettwestonarchive.

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