Ansel Adams exhibit at San Francisco's de Young Museum relevant in age of climate change

BySpencer Christian and Tim Didion KGO logo
Thursday, April 6, 2023
Ansel Adams exhibit at SF's de Young relevant in age of climate change
The new "Ansel Adams in Our Time" exhibit at San Francisco's de Young Museum is relevant in the age of climate change.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- When famed photographer Ansel Adams captured many of his iconic images, western landscapes like Yosemite were both remote and still pristine.

And for much of his career, he worked to help keep them that way.

Now a new exhibit at San Francisco's de Young museum examines how Adam's environmental activism is taking on a new urgency in the age of climate change.

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"He is that massive figure, particularly for people of my generation with this sort of larger than life reputation that one has to deal with. So I'm fascinated to realize how many contemporary artists really are concerned and speaking to environmental issues to climate change," said Senior Curator Karen Haas from Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

Haas says the influence can be seen in the work of those often younger photographers included in the exhibit. Contrasts like Adams famous photograph of the moon over a desert landscape in New Mexico compared to the sad clutter of Bryan Schutmaat's Nevada landscape, which captures rotting shacks and rusting cars.

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Lhola Amira's exhibit at the de Young museum, "Facing the Future," tells the stories and experiences of Black and Brown people around the world.

"What I love about Bryan's work, is that he is looking very concerned with the fact that we as a culture seem so often to extract everything that is valuable, to take from the soil, to take from the earth -- all those things -- and then leave these places and the people who live in the them in a very much worse state than we found them," Haas said.

Assistant Curator Sarah Mackay says she grew up on the East Coast, where many of Ansel Adams images define the Western landscape in popular imagination. But she also notes the evolution in works like Lucas Foglia's Beach Restoration after El Nino waves.

"So there are photographers like Lucas Foglia who really are involved with climate scientists, and whose, you know, main concern is the environment. And you see how the aesthetic kind of qualities of his images relate to atoms, but there's much more of an intensity about bringing a consciousness to the environment and the climate change," Mackay said.

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The exhibition is also an intimate look at Ansel Adams Bay Area roots. From the Golden Gate before the Golden Gate Bridge, to a developing landscape, dotted by little boxes on the hillsides.

A mix of classic and contemporary views, of landscape, the West, and ultimately the change facing our entire planet.

The exhibit is called "Ansel Adams in Our Time" and opens this weekend at the de Young.

Learn more about the exhibit here.

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