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May 13, 2022

Acquisition: Robert Adams

Robert Adams, "Weld County, Colorado", 1984

Robert Adams
Weld County, Colorado, 1984
gelatin silver print
image: 38.1 x 47.3 cm (15 x 18 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Robert and Kerstin Adams
© Robert Adams, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

For more than 50 years, Robert Adams (b. 1937) has made compelling and provocative photographs that show us the wonder and fragility of the American landscape, its inherent beauty, and the inadequacy of our response to it. Working in Colorado, California, and Oregon from the 1960s to the present, he has photographed a wide variety of subjects, including suburban sprawl, strip malls, highways, homes, and stores, as well as the land itself and the ravages we have inflicted on it. In honor of American Silence: The Photographs of Robert Adams (May 29–October 2, 2022), Robert and Kerstin Adams have given the National Gallery of Art 13 photographs, all of which are featured in the exhibition.

Highly influential, Adams' pictures have inspired countless younger photographers to advocate for responsible environmental stewardship. Combining hope and despair, the photographs in this gift show his remarkable ability to capture both the devastation we have inflicted on the land and the persistent beauty that endures. The gift includes rare early works such as Adobe Chapel, Medina Plaza, along the Purgatory River, Colorado (1964), made only a year after Adams began to photograph. It also comprises such photographs as Basement for a Tract House, Colorado Springs (1969) and Outdoor Theater, North Edge of Denver (1973–1974), which are included in the artist's seminal early books The New West: Landscapes along the Colorado Front Range (1974) and denver: A Photographic Survey of the Metropolitan Area (1977). Both volumes examined the new landscape of homes, highways, strip malls, and subdivisions that transformed the Southwest in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Robert and Kerstin Adams are also giving the National Gallery the only known prints of Along the Missouri River, North of Kansas City, Missouri (1979) and Interstate 25, Weld County, Colorado (1983), as well as pictures such as Clearcut, Clatsop County, Oregon (c. 2000) from his later study of the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest.

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