Man’s impact on the natural landscape takes the form of construction, destruction and intervention in the photographic imagery of An Artificial Wilderness. The title borrows a phrase from the W. H. Auden poem The Shield of Achilles (1952), referring to modern society’s passive stance toward the decline of human values, and its disregard for the physical world. Exemplifying this idea at its most extreme, Edward Burtynsky captures the world’s largest accumulation of discarded rubber tires. Lewis Baltz confronts an uncommon, mundane subject—an urban parking lot—and finds beauty. Rosemary Laing documents a seamlessly laid, floral wall-to-wall carpet in a eucalyptus forest to symbolize the domestication of the natural environment. In diverse works dating from the 1960s to the present, and featuring 16 prominent photographers with distinctive signature styles, An Artificial Wilderness presents altered landscapes from around the globe, including Australia, Bangladesh, Iceland and Mexico.
An Artificial Wilderness includes work by Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Claire Beckett, Frank Breuer, Edward Burtynsky, Olafur Eliasson, Andy Goldsworthy, Rosemary Laing, Louise Lawler, Ana Mendieta, Ed Ruscha, Sandy Skoglund, Doug and Mike Starn, and James Welling.