Ansel Adams in Yosemite
Through Nov. 30
Yosemite: Art of an American Icon, opening March 22 at the Eiteljorg Museum, is the next big thing coming to the museum, with its Fellowship for Native American Fine Art (arguably the museum’s most provocative offering when it comes around every two years) closing Feb. 10. In the interim, Ansel Adams in Yosemite, an exhibition of 23 photographs taken in Yosemite National Park, offers a taste of what’s to come in March. The exhibition, tucked away in the second floor Myrta Pulliam Gallery of Photography, is unlikely to be encountered on a casual tour through the museum, but this small space, a hallway, really, affords a more contemplative view of the photographs — many of which are iconic Adams images.
Adams’ panoramic views somehow manage to convey a sensation of intimacy, as if he held the images in the palm of his hand by virtue of capturing them on film. Rather than making us feel dwarfed by such awesome bigness, Adams instead conveyed his own reverence for nature, particularly in the grand scheme of things — mountain peaks, bucolic valleys, lakes as smooth as cut glass — most decidedly without the taint of human impact.
In “Moon and Half Dome,” a slick face of rock rises like a windowless skyscraper, its lower portion in shadow, a three-quarter moon hovering in the sky like a punctuation mark.
In other images, many of them also familiar, mountain peaks jut inwards like teeth, a sheath of water cascades and billows upwards on its descent, a tree high on a mountain fans its branches over a smooth bed of rock in permanent supplication to the wind … For these and other poetic moments turned into grand pictures, Adams became a legend of American art.
An avowed lover of nature, specifically the nature of Yosemite, Adams cut his teeth on the easy wonder of it all. What he saw became almost an abstraction of itself: the contrasts between black and white, the soft grays in between. The sharp delineations of tree limbs and mountain faces all became a sort of palette of moving parts that Adams simply had to compose by viewfinder — at just the right moment. Adams has been given much credit for how we “see” nature, even to this day. The infusion of light through clouds in images such as “Lake Tenaya” or “Unicorn Peak, Thunderclouds” takes us beyond an appreciation for the neutral existence of something beautiful to a reverence for where an image might take us.
Ansel Adams in Yosemite is on view at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art through Nov. 30. For more information, call 317-636-9378 or visit www.eiteljorg.org.