Politicians beware: Oil photo exhibit opens in DC

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Ron Shimshock
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Politicians beware: Oil photo exhibit opens in DC

A photo art exhibit on the impact of oil by Edward Burtynsky is opening at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC today.  The exhibit is scheduled to be in DC through December, then will be shown at art galleries throughout the United States and Canada through 2012:


Politicians, cover your eyes.

The first exhibit of 56 large-scale color landscapes from Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky chronicling the impact of oil made its debut Saturday at Washington's Corcoran Gallery of Art — less than a block from the White House. The show, chronicling the world's predominant energy source, can't help carrying a political zing.

"Edward Burtynsky: Oil," opens at the privately funded museum as Congress is struggling with a climate bill that could include a "cap and trade" system to reduce greenhouse gases. Critics say it could drive up energy costs.


Burtynsky spent 12 years exploring the subject, following past projects on mines, quarries and farming. The images are divided thematically to show how oil is extracted from the earth and how it drives transportation and development. It ends with a frightening thought — the end of oil.


"It's like trying to photograph something that you never see," he said. "We don't see crude oil. It's like blood in our veins. It runs through our body, but if we see it, there's a problem usually."

Rather than show oil spills, though, Burtynsky tackles the demands for oil and its consequences. One scene depicts a Las Vegas suburb with man-made lagoons and waterways from overhead, showing the surrounding Nevada desert.

"We make these worlds where we manufacture waterfront property to get more money for these houses," he said.


Museum director Paul Greenhalgh called the images an "apocalyptic display of what humanity does to the landscape," likening the photographs to artworks produced in the early 19th century in Europe "when the landscape was being ripped up by the first phase of industrialization."


Biography of the Artist

Edward Burtynsky is one of Canada’s most respected photographers. His color photographs of industrially transformed landscapes are in the collections of several major museums around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris, and the Museum of Modern Art and Guggenheim Museum in New York. Born in 1955 of Ukranian heritage in St. Catherines, Ontario, Burtynsky is a graduate of Ryerson University and Niagara College. His father worked on an automobile production line at a General Motors plant in his hometown; Burtynksy credits this experience as his earliest exposure to the subject of industry, and oil in particular. Burtynsky’s exhibitions include Manufactured Landscapes (2003); Before the Flood (2003); Burtynsky – China (2005); and Edward Burtynsky – Quarries (2006), all of which have traveled extensively to venues in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia. Among many other honors, in 2007 Burtynsky was awarded the prestigious title Officer of the Order of Canada.


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