“Edward Burtynsky: Oil offers a unique opportunity for cross-disciplinary collaboration between the museum, the College of Fine Arts, and other UNLV departments,” commented Alisha Kerlin, interim director of the UNLV Marjorie Barrick Museum. “We are looking forward to the timely discussions that will arise from this exhibition centered around such an important global commodity as oil, especially as UNLV prepares to host the final 2016 U.S Presidential Debate while this exhibition is on view. The collection of photographs drawn from the permanent collection of the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno represents that museum’s ongoing commitment to issues related to natural and built environments — a dialogue to which the Las Vegas community will certainly be able to contribute.”
From 1997 to 2009, Burtynsky chronicled the production, distribution, and use of oil, revealing the rarely seen mechanics of its manufacture and the altered landscapes formed by its extraction. He organizes his work thematically, passing from oil fields to massive refineries, highway interchanges, gatherings of motor culture aficionados, and the debris that oil leaves in its wake: car scrapyards, mammoth ship breaking operations, and fields of decrepit equipment. Burtynsky also visited the car-dependent suburban housing developments of North Las Vegas; his images of the city provoke questions about the types of communities people choose to build, and human dependence on natural resources to meet the demands of our suburban infrastructure.
Burtynsky's photographs render his subjects with a transfixing clarity of detail. He precedes every new body of work with research that evolves into negotiations with the authorities of the areas he has chosen to shoot. The angle and height of each image is carefully selected to convey a sense of the sublime. Each photograph in Edward Burtynsky: Oil is a singular alliance between the seriousness of a documentarian and the aesthetic eye of a committed artist.
This exhibition is organized by the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno. All of the photographs in Edward Burtynsky: Oil are drawn from the Nevada Museum of Art, Carol Franc Buck Altered Landscape Photography Collection.