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Human/Nature: Recent European Landscape Photography at The Nelson-Atkins
Massimo Vitali (Italian, b. 1944), Viareggio Tuffo, 1995. Chromogenic print. Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2007.40.8

KANSAS CITY.- Large-scale color photographs by a new generation of European artists will be on view June 28 through Oct. 5 with the opening of the exhibition Human/Nature: Recent European Landscape Photography in the Bloch Building at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The exhibition provides the first opportunity to view bold, contemporary works never before seen in this region.

April M. Watson, Associate Curator, Photography at the Nelson-Atkins, has helped assemble works by 10 artists from five European countries for the exhibition. Artists include Olaf Otto Becker, Peter Bialobrzeski, Andreas Gefeller, Beate Gütschow, and Marc Räder, all from Germany; Belgian photographer Bart Michiels; Wout Berger and Hans ver der Meer from the Netherlands; British photographer Jem Southam; and Massimo Vitali from Italy.

“The relationship between human beings and the natural world is complex,” says Watson. “Each of these artists view the contemporary European landscape as a source of continued fascination and beauty. Those sentiments are tempered, however, by concerns for the ways we use and abuse the land, both historically and in our own time.”

Bart Michaels, for example, considers the weight of history as it informs former WWI battlefields, while Hans van der Meer’s views of amateur football (soccer) fields situate the impassioned actions of players against the larger backdrop of Europe. For Becker and Bialobrzeski, landscape retains the romantic associations of an earlier age. Andreas Gefeller and Beate Gütschow use digital technologies to fabricate landscapes that oscillate between the strange and the familiar. For Vitali and Räder, cultural interventions such as the leisure industry are paramount concerns. Berger and Southam observe the transformation of place, the result of both human and natural processes.

“Collectively, the artists in this exhibition suggest that our relationship with the natural world continues to be highly complicated as our dependence on nature – and nature’s reliance on us – becomes increasingly tenuous,” Watson said.

The Photography Collection at the Nelson-Atkins grew from its initial holding of 1,015 prints to a collection of more than 7,000 works with the acquisition in early 2006 of the famed Hallmark Photographic Collection, perhaps the finest private collections of American photography ever assembled. “With that acquisition the Nelson-Atkins instantly vaulted to the top rank of art museums worldwide with major photography holdings. Thanks to continued growth since that wonderful gift, we now have masterpieces from the entire span of photography’s history, 1839 to the present. Our recent focus has been on European photography, both contemporary and 19th century, thanks in large part to the generosity of the Hall Family Foundation. This exhibition is the first major expression of this new area of emphasis,” said Keith F. Davis, Curator of Photography.

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