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Robert Adams: Early Works

Robert Adams, through his many books and exhibitions, is widely acknowledged as perhaps the most influential photographer of the landscape working today. Social issues involving ecology, urban chaos, and the quality of the human environment are central to his work.

On exhibit will be approximately twenty-two early works by Robert Adams made during the years 1968 to 1974. It was during this period that Adams published the two books that first established his reputation and brought his work to public acclaim, Denver and The New West. The photographs published in these two books have had an enormous influence on a subsequent generation of photographers.

Born in New Jersey in 1937, Adams has spent most of his adult life in the western United States recording in photographs the changing appearance as well as the enduring qualities of the landscape. During the 1960s he set out to document the American West, creating what are considered some of the most demanding and eloquent photographs ever made in this country. In his photographs the evidence of man can be found in the pervasive tract housing, the commercial strips that blanket the land, the unnecessary refuse of daily life. To all of his images Adams brings a formality and reserve. Hauntingly beautiful and often troubling, Adams’ images illustrate the confrontation between cultural remembrances of the ideal landscape and the realities of suburban expansion. It is here in these lost scenes, that he discovers an unorthodox and persistent beauty.

[Adams’] moral is that the landscape is, for us, the place we live. If we have used it badly, we cannot therefore scorn it, without scorning ourselves. If we have abused it, broken its health, and erected upon it memorials to our ignorance, it is still our place and before we can proceed we must learn to love it. —John Szarkowski

Robert Adams has been awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships and two Photographers’ Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. His work appears in numerous books and monographs included To Make It Home (Aperture, 1989). His work was recently the subject of a major retrospective organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

This exhibition is concurrent with Adam Fuss: Photograms.