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Exhibition highlights Anthony Hernandez's contemporary views of urban environment
Anthony Hernandez, American (born 1947). Public Transit Areas #11, 1979. Inkjet print, 28 1/16 x 40 1/16. Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2012.53.18.

KANSAS CITY, MO.- For nearly 50 years, photographer Anthony Hernandez has used his camera to document the social landscape in and around his native Los Angeles. Anthony Hernandez: L.A. Landscapes, drawn completely from the permanent collection of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, highlights Hernandez’s mid-to-late career achievements and features 40 photographs. The exhibition opened April 19.

“The incredible breadth and depth of our photography collection allows us to present exhibitions of internationally recognized artists like Anthony Hernandez for our Kansas City audiences,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO & Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “These compelling works straddle abstraction and social documentation in a unique and fascinating way.”

The earliest projects represented in this exhibition include two black and white photographs from the series Automotive Landscapes, Public Transit Areas, Public Use Areas, and Public Fishing Areas. These works, made between 1978 and 1982, focus on the mundane asphalt and concrete landscapes of Los Angeles, a city constructed for, and reliant on, automotive transport. These photographs were the first views Hernandez made using a 5 x 7-inch Deardorff camera, and marked a shift away from his earlier, 35-mm street photography to large-format work.

More recent projects by Hernandez include a selection of 18 color photographs from Everything and Forever, two series that take as their subjects the fringe landscapes of Los Angeles. Everything includes photographs made while Hernandez walked the Los Angeles River basin, an area often perceived as a wasteland, and one rarely seen by car. These landscapes eschew familiar tropes of natural beauty, focusing instead on such structures as drainage ditches and storm drains, and the human detritus found therein. For Forever, Hernandez adopted the point of view of the homeless, turning his camera toward the spaces they inhabit. The photographs record more than the material traces of this way of life. They emphasize the emotional and psychological impact of living on the streets, giving symbolic weight to the simplest of objects. For both Everything and Forever, Hernandez framed his subjects using a medium-format camera. His use of the square negative complements Hernandez’s ongoing interest in pattern, compositional structure, and typological investigation.

“Anthony’s work uniquely addresses important social issues—such as the impact of city planning on disenfranchised communities—without making a strident political statement,” said April Watson, Photography Curator. “Rather, his approach gently encourages viewers to recognize and understand these concerns through his specific artistic choices.”

Anthony Hernandez: L.A. Landscapes closes Aug. 18.

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