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Fralin Museum of Art’s ‘Looking at the New West’ Complements Ansel Adams Exhibit

Today’s American West looks very different from the pristine wilderness documented in the photographs of Ansel Adams.

In conjunction with the new “Ansel Adams: A Legacy” exhibit, The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia opens “Looking at the New West: Contemporary Landscape Photography,” on Friday. The exhibit, running through Dec. 15, focuses on six contemporary photographers’ explorations of the ever-changing scenery of the American West.

The featured photographers – Robert Adams, Lois Conner, Michael Lundgren, Mike Osborne, Mark Ruwedel and Joni Sternbach – share Adams’ devotion to landscape photography, but with different ways of viewing than Adams’ technically precise method of documentation.

These artists reflect the seminal and influential photography of Adams in their work, but, while their motives and means are strikingly similar, the view has changed.

As the description for “Looking at the New West” reads: “After the grand display of pristine wilderness that Adams’ best-known works sought to convey, the work of these photographers looks at the American West with fresh eyes and, in so doing, carries on the documentary conviction that seeing is understanding.”

“These contemporary artists discovered another America, one that is full of human interventions and follies,” said William Wylie, associate chair for studio art in U.Va.’s McIntire Department of Art, the exhibition’s curator and the museum’s adjunct curator of photography. “Their work shows that even marginal places and common landscapes can be understood as both beautiful and natural.”

The “Looking at the New West” exhibition will run alongside the Adams exhibit, which was co-curated by Wylie and William Sherman, founding director of OpenGrounds and associate professor of architecture in the U.Va. School of Architecture.

The juxtaposition of today’s landscapes with the American West seen in Adams’ photographs illustrates Adams’ lasting influence, and allows for a discussion of changing landscapes and the resultant transformed attitudes of contemporary artists who photograph the new West.

Both exhibitions will coincide with Charlottesville’s LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph, which takes place June 13-15.

OpenGrounds and LOOK3 Festival will co-sponsor an opening reception for the exhibitions at the museum on June 15 from 6 to 9 p.m.

To support multidisciplinary exchange and University-wide engagement with the Adams and contemporary photography exhibitions, OpenGrounds will sponsor a Sept. 27 symposium, “Changing Views: Photography and Environmental Action.”

The Fralin Museum of Art’s programming is made possible by the support of The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation. This exhibition is made possible through the support of the Page-Barbour and Richard Lecture Series at U.Va., Albemarle Magazine and Ivy Publications LLC’s Charlottesville Welcome Book.

In addition to the “Looking at the New West” and “Ansel Adams: A Legacy” exhibits, The Fralin Museum of Art’s summer programming opens Friday with “Frenemies: Animals in Art” and “From Alaska to the Mountain Peaks of Central Mexico: Depicting Native American Life in the Late Nineteenth Century.” Remaining on view this summer is “Becoming the Butterfly: Portraits of James McNeill Whistler.”

The museum, located at 155 Rugby Road, one block from the Rotunda, is open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

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