What Humankind Left Behind

By focusing on a subject he calls the architecture of residual landscape, internationally prominent photographer Edward Burtynsky creates an art form that is as engaging as it is provocative.

The selection of photographs, on view at the Museum of Art through April 21, grew from a concept the artist began exploring in the granite quarries throughout Vermont and Canada in the early 1990s. Director of the Arts Pieter Broucke and Juliette Bianco, assistant director of Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art, where the exhibition originated, are co-curators and introduced the show at its opening this week.

The works are large-scale—as are, after all, the deeply cavernous subjects—but the largeness of it all can be deceiving. The artist gives little sense of perspective within the photographs, so the smallest details—the rock striations and geometric cuts, a bright green pool, a chalky white glaze—became almost otherworldly, while at the same time so clearly recognizable as our own earth. It’s a mesmerizing beauty born of industrial destruction. The exhibition also inherently serves as social commentary, but the artist himself is not documentarian; he doesn’t press his opinion but rather propose the opportunity for healthy and ongoing dialogue.

Click through a slideshow of selections below, then make a trip to the Museum to see the show in person—a must!

Rock of Ages #12

Picture 2 of 7

Edward Burtynsky (Canadian, born 1955), Abandoned Section, Adam-Pirie Quarry, Barre, Vermont, 1991, digital chromogenic color print. Photograph courtesy Howard Greenberg & Bryce Wolkowitz, New York / Nicholas Metivier, Toronto.

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