Orogeny: Landscapes of Landscapes

July 4-30, 2007

This summer Bellas Artes will present the work of one of Spain's most prominent and innovative artists, Joan Fontcuberta. Fontcuberta is known for exploring the boundaries between art, science, and illusion. On display will be black and white silver gelatin prints, as well as one color cibachrome created specifically for this exhibition. This work will be derived from a landscape by Georgia O'Keeffe.

In an age when computers are becoming ever more powerful, artists are expanding these tools into new realms of usage and new ways of approaching art. Using software in unaccustomed ways, artists are pioneering an unexpected future for the machines. Computer technology invites the subconscious, evokes waking dreams, and creates illusions, questioning the fine line between reality and representation.

Joan Fontcuberta is at the center of this investigation. The prints that will be on view come from his series, Orogenesis. Orogenesis is "the process of mountain formation, especially by folding and faulting of the earth's crust."

To create the Orogenesis images, the artist has scanned reproductions of well known historical landscape paintings into a computer. By using visualization software developed to interpret maps for military and scientific purposes, he has been able to render photorealistic topographical pictures from the data he has scanned. Instead of information from cartographic sources, the computer has interpreted the tones and contours of the paintings and transformed them into mountains, rivers, valleys and clouds.

Fontcuberta has created artificial landscapes that are as haunting and mysterious as the ones we encounter in the natural world. Yet, as the artist states, "These are landscapes without memory, without history: nothing has happened in them, they have witnessed no expedition, no battle. They are mute spaces, mountains with no echoes, lakes without a ripple, silent waterfalls."

In his essay, photography by the numbers, Geoffrey Batchen suggests, "in Fontecuberta's hands, photography has become a philosophical activity, not a pictorial one. He asks us to think as much as to look...producing an 'experience of the impossible,' sublimely banal landscapes that have never been and will never be... Or perhaps they are a little more possible than imagined." Batchen goes on to suggest that perhaps they could be glimpses of "landscapes of doom, denuded and despoiled by human degradation, the landscape of the post-human condition (or, at least, of the post-industrial age)."

The art of Joan Fontcuberta is represented in prominent collections throughout the world, including many in this country—Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art in New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Art Institute of Chicago, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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