New York-Pace Gallery and Pace/MacGill are pleased to announce Emmet Gowin The Nevada Test Site, a presentation of aerial photographs surveying the uniquely scarred landscape of America's primary nuclear testing location for over four decades. Opening on October 25 and on view through December 21, 2019, the exhibition coincides with the publication of Gowin's latest monograph, The Nevada Test Site, by Princeton University Press and marks his debut at Pace's new Chelsea location.
Since 1980, renowned American photographer Emmet Gowin has explored both the natural and man-made alteration of the earth's surface from an airborne perspective. Finding that 'from the air, places and subjects usually forbidden or inaccessible were now fully visible, with a scope and wholeness that a close-up or ground view could never provide,' he has created formally abstract and luminous compositions of the volcanic devastation of Washington's Mount St. Helens, the chemical contamination of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, pivot irrigation agriculture in Kansas, the chemo-petrol industries of the Czech Republic, and most recently, the Spanish province of Granada.
Following a nearly decade-long pursuit with the U.S. Department of Energy, Gowin secured permission to make aerial photographs of the Nevada National Security Test Site in 1996, and remains the only photographer granted official and continued access to the reservation. Located about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, this area of desert and mountainous terrain sustained over 900 nuclear detonations between 1951 and 1992, creating a landscape at the Nevada Test Site like no other on earth.
Made over the course of five flights between 1996 and 1997, Gowin's photographs portray blast areas where sand has been transformed to glass, valleys pockmarked with hundreds of subsidence craters, protective troop placement trenches, radioactive waste burial grounds, and leftover debris from tests conducted as deep as 5,000 feet below the earth's surface. Each image is accompanied by exact location coordinates and, when possible, test and yield details to ground the visual experience and relate the testing and its history to our own place in time.
Together, these visually stunning yet unsettling views reveal environmental travesties on a monumental scale. The Nevada Test Site stands as a testament to the disquieting effects of human intervention, the importance of bearing witness to the history of nuclear proliferation and, ultimately, the possibility for redemption through a reconsideration of our relationship with and responsibility to our surroundings. Gowin states: 'The astonishing thing to me is that in spite of all we have done, the earth still offers back so much beauty, so much sustenance. So much of what we need is embodied in it. If we treat things in accord with what we believe they're worth, then the value of the world is something that we imagine. The thing that we can do for the world is always expressed in terms of how we treat the world and each other, the quality of our behaviour.'
Emmet Gowin (b. 1941, Danville, Va.) received a BFA in Graphic Design from the Richmond Professional Institute (now Virginia Commonwealth University) in 1965 and an MFA in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1967. He served on the faculty of Princeton University as a professor of photography in the Visual Arts Program from 1973 until his retirement in 2009, and is the recipient of numerous honours, including a Guggenheim Fellowship (1974), two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships (1977, 1979), a Pew Fellowship in the Arts (1993), the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton University (1997), and the Princeton Behrman Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities (2006).
For over four decades, Gowin's photography has been the subject of exhibitions worldwide at venues such as The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1971); the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1983); the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1990); the Espace Photographie Marie de Paris (1992); the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven (2002); the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City (2003); the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge (2004); the Princeton University Art Museum (2009); FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE, Madrid (2013); and The Morgan Library, New York (2015). His work is represented in institutional collections around the world, including the Art Institute of Chicago; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and the Tokyo Museum of Art, among others.
Monographs include: Emmet Gowin: Photographs (1976, 2009); Emmet Gowin: Photographs, 1966-1983 (1983); Petra (1986); Emmet Gowin/Photographs: This vegetable Earth is but a shadow (1990); Emmet Gowin: Changing the Earth (2002); Mariposas Nocturnas - Edith in Panama (2006); Emmet Gowin (2013); Hidden Likeness: Emmet Gowin at the Morgan (2015); Mariposas Nocturnas: Moths of Central and South America, A Study in Beauty and Diversity (2017); Here on Earth Now - Notes from the Field (2017); and The Nevada Test Site (2019).
Press release courtesy Pace Gallery.