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Portland Art Museum acquires important collection of Robert Adams photographs
Robert Adams, South from Ecola, Clatsop County, Oregon, 1990. Printed 1995. Gelatin-silver print, 3/30 (edition not realized), signed, titled, dated & numbered verso in pencil. ©Robert Adams, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.

PORTLAND, ORE.- The Portland Art Museum announces the acquisition of 69 photographs of Western Oregon by renowned landscape photographer Robert Adams. This is the largest single acquisition of photographs by a living artist of Adams’ stature in the Museum’s history.

The photographs, taken between 1992 and 2012, explore the impact of clear-cutting in Oregon’s Coast Range and the hope of recovery found at the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

“The photographs that Adams makes in clear-cut spaces are raw and brutal, suggestive of a crime scene,” said Julia Dolan, Ph.D., The Minor White Curator of Photography. The images of the Oregon Coast capture the constant and forgiving beauty of nature.”

The photographs were featured in the Museum’s recent exhibition The Question of Hope: Robert Adams in Western Oregon and in a publication of the same name.

“No photographer of our time has better shown us what we both love and too often tend to spoil throughout the American West than Robert Adams. Some years ago the Yale University Art Gallery was privileged to acquire the master sets of most of Adams’ photographic projects, believing them to comprise the finest overall body of visual literature created and published in America during the last 50 years. Our teaching museum, which has also organized Adams’ currently touring retrospective, now heartily cheers the Portland Art Museum for purchasing an outstanding selection of Adams’ photographs to add to its distinguished holdings,” said Jock Reynolds, The Henry J. Heinz II Director of the Yale University Art Gallery. “I know that Robert and Kerstin Adams are personally very grateful that this particular body of imagery, which was created in the state where they dwell, can now be perpetually studied and exhibited for the benefit of all Oregonians, helping to stir more discussions as to how the their treasured natural resources might be better treated both now and for generations to come.”

The acquisition was made possible through the generosity of Museum patrons Bonnie Serkin and Will Emery, several anonymous benefactors, and a grant from the Oregon Arts Commission.

“I am most grateful to our generous donors for making this acquisition possible. Their gifts will serve this community for generations,” said Brian Ferriso, The Marilyn H. and Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr. Director of the Portland Art Museum.

Robert Adams was among the first to reconsider the photographic presentation of the post-World War II American West. His detailed style and inquisitive approach redefined the genre and continue to influence photographers around the world. A visitor to the Oregon Coast since the early 1960s, Adams has lived in Astoria, Ore., with his wife, Kerstin, since 1997, and the region’s terrain remains his primary subject. The Museum’s acquisition of these photographs will preserve this powerful work created by one of the country’s most important photographers.

“The acquisition of these significant works of art by one of America’s foremost photographers, Robert Adams, is a major event in our institution’s history and one that will help shape and define our future,” said Dolan.

This acquisition continues the Museum’s commitment to collecting and presenting photographic arts. The Museum embraced photography as early as the turn of the 20th century, when Edward Sheriff Curtis’ monumental 20-book publication The North American Indian was donated to the Museum Library. A significant number of the more than 2,000 photographs contained in the series featured Native American tribes of the Northwest. Minor White, who went on to become one of the most influential photographers and teachers of the 20th century, made his first photographs in Portland for the Works Progress Administration during the late 1930s. The federal government placed more than 100 of these rare photographs with the Museum in the 1940s. Like these earlier groups, Adams’ photographs of Oregon’s coastline and forests distinguish the Museum’s collection with exceptional work created in the region, making the Museum one of the few institutions in the world to possess this rare and geographically meaningful body of photographs.

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