New Exhibition Explores Ways in which Photography Can Transform Our Understanding of the Landscape

  • March 15, 2022 11:42

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William Anders (American, b. 1933), NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) (founded 1958), Michael Light (American, b. 1963), Earthrise Seen for the First Time by Human Eyes, photograph by William Anders, Apollo 8, December 24, 1968, from the project Full Moon, 1999, printed 2021. Gift of Photography Council, M2001.47. Courtesy the artist. Negative NASA; digital image © 1999 Michael Light

A new exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum, highlighting recent acquisitions created by artists of different races, nationalities and genders, examines the impact photographs can have on shaping viewer’s perceptions of the physical world around them. In addition to celebrated works from the Museum’s collection, a group of 20 recently acquired significant photographs by contemporary artists of color including Laura Aguilar, Zalika Azim, Widline Cadet, Nona Faustine, Pao Houa Her, and D’Angelo Lovell Williams will debut in the exhibition. Opening March 18, 2022, Shifting Perspectives: Landscape Photographs from the Collection features photography that portrays the effects that global issues—including climate change, manufacturing, development, and war—can have on the land.  

Pao Houa Her (American, b. Laos, 1982), untitled (poppy field in Minnesota), from the series The Imaginative Landscape, 2019, printed 2021. Inkjet print. 52 × 65 in. Purchase, with funds from Herzfeld Foundation Acquisition Fund and Photography Council, M2022.4. © Pao Houa Her

Installed in the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts, Shifting Perspectives will feature more than 85 photographs—many on view in the Museum for the first time—that span the history of the medium and celebrate the breadth of artistic voices within the Museum’s collection.   

“We are thrilled to feature a significant group of recent acquisitions of photographs by BIPOC artists alongside other highlights from our collection,” said Lisa Sutcliffe, Herzfeld Curator of Photography and Media Arts, Milwaukee Art Museum. “Shifting Perspectives offers an opportunity to explore the many narratives and forces at play—from the evolution of Western culture to climate change, manufacturing, and war—in shaping how we interpret these photographs of the land, and how they, in turn, shape our understanding of our world.” 

Part of the exhibition "On Contested Terrain," An-My Lê (American, b. Vietnam, 1960), Fragment I: General P. G. T. Beauregard Monument, New Orleans, from the series Silent General, 2016. Inkjet print. 40 × 56½ in. Carnegie Museum of Art. Purchased with funds provided by the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, 2020.21.3 © An-My Lê

Photographs on view include 19th-century images by George Barnard that record the aftermath of the American Civil War, juxtaposed with new acquisitions by An-My Lê, currently on view in her survey exhibition On Contested Terrain, that considers ways in which this war is still playing out. Pictures by Ansel Adams and Lewis Baltz chart the evolution of the American West from idealized wilderness to suburban sprawl, while works by Laura Aguilar consider the legacy of modernist landscape photography.  

Featured works on view include: 

  • Twin Cities–based artist Pao Houa Her’s photographs, which record the Hmong diaspora, and portray an imaginative landscape for a displaced people.  
  • The multimedia galleries spotlight Indigenous Artist and filmmaker, Sky Hopinka, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, who developed his work while living in Milwaukee.  
  • Earthrise Seen for the First Time by Human Eyes, taken on a 1968 lunar mission and re-discovered only at the end of the 20th century, is installed alongside contemporary work by Afro-Caribbean artist Zalika Azim, who brings together family photographs with recent images made by NASA’s Perseverance Rover. 

Shifting Perspectives will also include a unique audio guide experience featuring the voices of members of the Milwaukee community, including Leana Yang of the Hmong American Women’s Association and Rafael Smith of Citizen Action Wisconsin, among others, who will respond to the photographs on view and offer their reflections.  

I think it's important for people to remember that we have all the tools we need to look at, and interpret, a work of art. The act of viewing and engaging with art draws equally upon you, your experiences, and the artwork itself,” said Kantara Souffrant, Curator of Community Dialogue. “Shifting Perspectives explores our constantly changing relationship to the land, and the amazing individuals—land advocates, racial justice organizers, immigrants, and second-generation Americans—who contributed to the accompanying audio guide model how we hope visitors will engage with the exhibition: to think about how land, and looking at land, shape our personal experiences, identity, and future.”  

On view through July 3, 2022, Shifting Perspectives will join other special exhibitions and collection galleries across the Museum, offering visitors four floors of exhibitions to explore.  

Visit for details and event listings.

Tags: photography

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