Edward Burtynsky – Industrial Abstract

By Ezrha Jean Black
Artillery Magazine

Edward Burtynsky’s principal subject over the last decade or so has been the industrial landscape, or more specifically, large-scale, frequently aerial views of major industrial operations, grids, excavations, or industrial waste sites. The photographs in his current show at Von Lintel continue in this vein – part of a larger project Burtynsky has titled (not surprisingly), Anthropocene. What is fascinating about the current body of work is that it returns us to the roots of visual abstraction, even the notion of landscape itself. The history of 20th century abstraction begins in landscape (e.g., Picasso’s proto-Cubist Horta landscape studies; and arguably before that). It could be argued that our entire notion of visual abstraction, of visual description, is rooted in our apprehension and appreciation of landscape as referring to a larger notion of environment and exterior surroundings generally. It is the way we define a world within our scope and grasp; also our place in it.

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