Spotlight: A San Francisco Exhibition Brings Together Five Decades of Robert Adams’s Iconic Visions of the American West

"Sea Stone and Other Pictures" at Fraenkel Gallery juxtaposes Adams's black-and-white photographs with recent woodblock prints.

Robert Adams, Nehalem Spit, Oregon (2009). Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery.
Robert Adams, Nehalem Spit, Oregon (2009). Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery.

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What You Need to Know: American photographer Robert Adams has been documenting the shifting landscapes of the American West since the 1970s. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, he published a series of photo books, including The New West, Denver, What We Bought, and Summer Nights, which catapulted the artist to iconic status. Fraenkel Gallery, which shows the photographer, is presenting “Robert Adams: Sea Stone & Other Pictures,” which brings together the artist’s most recent black-and-white photographs made near his home on the Oregon coast, along with a selection of photographs from the 1980s and ‘90s, and a series of painted woodcut prints made by the artist in 2020. 

Robert Adams, Untitled (2020). Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery.

Robert Adams, Untitled (2020). Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery.

Why We Like It: The exhibition presents a complex vision of Adams’s evolving practice. The most recent works in the exhibition are Adams’s painted woodblocks which capture the artist’s memories of the Colorado prairie and are painted with vibrant fields of golden yellow, pale blue, and bright green. These are a departure from Adam’s famed black-and-white images but reveal his underlying interest in the geometric and formal aspects of the landscape, which are juxtaposed with photographs the artist took of those very landscapes from 50 years ago. Also on view are a rare grouping of Adams’s large-format prints from the 1980s and ’90s, which allow the viewers to immerse themselves in Adams’s vision of the American landscape. The exhibition is also accompanied by a new monograph, Sea Stone, published by Fraenkel Gallery.

According to the Gallery: Modest in size and painted in springlike hues with block-printing ink, Robert Adams’s wooden works are made from the scraps of an old bookcase and cut with tools that belonged to Adams’s father and grandfather. Also on view, the series ‘Sea Stone’ focuses on a four-mile stretch of sand, seagrass, and pines that divides the Pacific Ocean from Nehalem Bay, south of the Columbia River. Made between 2005 and 2019, the 26 photographs depict the changing light on the dunes and the sea and record the occasional seabird or footprint left by human or animal visitors. In this shifting landscape, Adams explores the meaning of our relationship to nature and the precarity and brevity of our place in it.”

Browse works by the artist below.

 

Untitled (2013)
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Robert Adams, Untitled (2013). Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery.

Robert Adams, Untitled (2013). Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery.

 

Dead Palms, Partially Uprooted, Ontario, California (1983)
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Robert Adams, Dead palms, Partially Uprooted, Ontario, California (1983). Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery.

Robert Adams, Dead Palms, Partially Uprooted, Ontario, California (1983). Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery.

 

On the Peetz Bench. Weld County, Colorado (1981)
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Robert Adams, On the Peetz Bench. Weld County, Colorado (1981). Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery.

Robert Adams, On the Peetz Bench. Weld County, Colorado (1981). Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery.

 

Robert Adams: Sea Stone & Other Pictures” is on view at Fraenkel Gallery through May 27, 2022. 


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