22 April — 26 June, 2011
The urban sprawl of megacities, oil drills situated on dusty barren acres, the derelict wreckage of discarded tankers comprise landscapes that are the direct result of our consumption of oil. Over the last 12 years, acclaimed photographer Edward Burtynsky has traveled across the globe to investigate these landscapes. Through photography Burtynsky chronicles the production, distribution, and use of oil.
more than documentation
The Oil exhibition is organized thematically, surveying a “life cycle” of this critical fuel. First, Burtynsky depicts the extraction of oil from the earth. He photographs cities and suburbs dependent upon its availability, and then the subcultures that have formed around people’s obsession with motor vehicles and transportation. Finally, he addresses the coming “end of oil”—revealing the consequences of our energy economy, and the dwindling availability of the substance that drives our civilization.
But more than documentation, Burtynsky’s photographs reside in the domain between industrial photography and visual art that Bernd and Hilla Becher established during the 1970s. His images, despite their raw and mechanized subjects, are enthralling, even romantic by contrast. His compositions have been compared to the contemplative paintings of Caspar David Friedrich. It is Burtynsky’s mastery of the medium that imbues the final photographs with their exquisite detail and rich tones. He understands how each step in the photographic process crafts the final image. It is this craftsmanship that unwittingly draws us into the subject of his work and evokes reflection as well as concern for the tentative state of our planet.
Edward Burtynsky (b. 1955) is one of Canada’s best-known photographers. His work has been exhibited in many museums and included in museum as well as private collections. Among them are the National Gallery of Canada, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim in New York. He has been granted the TED Prize and the Outreach Award of the Arles Photography Festival.
Burtynsky / OIL was organized in close collaboration with Huis Marseille Museum for Photography in Amsterdam, Gallery Nicholas Metivier in Toronto and the artist himself.