Yancey Richardson Gallery: Victoria Sambunaris: High and Dry
High and dryexhibition of new photographs by Victoria Sambunaris, documents the relentless evidence of human activity on the desert landscape, from the literal to the geological landscape. Here are seven new large-scale photographs of the intersection of open natural land and the encroachments shaped by climate change, resource depletion and environmental degradation.
Inspired by the intrepid 19th-century photographers whose work helped define the region, Sambunaris embarks on a long solo journey each year, capturing the American landscape with a large-format 13×18 wooden country camera. Highly detailed and dramatically framed, the resulting photographs provide a visually elegant portrait that conveys a layered sense of place and a nuanced view of the complex issues surrounding American land use and management.
For this new work, Sambunaris made three trips around the country in 2020 and 2021, including nine months in prison with a population divided between fear and mistrust. Observing where the desert meets aesthetically and politically connected spaces, including Death Valley, the Mojave Desert, and the Great Basin Desert, the work challenges traditional, clichéd notions of the landscape, our place within it, and our collective roles and responsibilities in changing it.
The water wars between farmers and municipalities in northern and southern California have been going on for more than a century. Roman Polanski’s 1974 film Chinatown Set in Los Angeles in the 1930s, he explained this conflict.
“Water levels have been declining in the Western United States for more than two decades, but recent levels have drawn national media attention, highlighting water challenges,” Sambunaris said. idea High and dry he was born when he stopped to camp near Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border and saw a thick white line on the canyon walls. “Since my last visit two years ago, Lake Mead reached a new record high and was only at 27% capacity. Its depletion has revealed strewn debris, sunken boats, human corpses and a submerged ghost town since the 1930s.
While he first imagined the desert as an abandoned wasteland, Sambunaris discovered something else. The desert was alive with human activity: buggies and motorcycles, camps and miners, military testing grounds and art installations. In his 1968 book, the essayist Desert Solitaireauthor and conservationist Edward Abbey called this profit potential from development “industrial tourism.”
Among the locations pictured is Searles Lake, a dry lake bed in the northern Mojave Desert where the railroad was used to transport sulfuric acid, potash, soda ash, borax, coal, minerals, and materials for the United States Naval Air Arms. Station in China. Lake; Algodones Dunes, the largest ORV (all-terrain vehicle) area for sand dunes in the United States; Badwater Basin and Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park, an area of ancient lake beds that dried up 5-10 million years ago; dune buggy drivers on the All American Canal, an 82-mile aqueduct that brings water from the Colorado River to the Imperial Valley; A dry lake bed in the Joshua Tree Mojave Desert, now a paradise for off-roaders, target shooters and campers. A caravan of OHV drivers in a photo of Joshua Tree evokes the trail wagons in this desert landscape.
About Victoria Sambunaris
Victoria Sambunaris was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1964 and currently lives and works in New York. He received a BA from Mount Vernon College in 1986 and an MFA from Yale University School of Art in 1999, and has since held various teaching positions. His work is in various museums and galleries in the United States, including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Museum of Modern Photography, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art Houston; and the New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe. His work can be seen in many collections throughout the United States, including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo; Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Sambunaris has received numerous awards, including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2021); Charles Redd Fellowship in Western American History, Brigham Young University (2015); Aaron Siskind Foundation Individual Photographer Fellowship (2010); and the Anonymous Women’s Award (2010). A monograph of her work, Taxonomy of a Landscape: Victoria Sambunaris, was published by Radius Books in 2013.
The opening will be held on Thursday, January 5 from 18:00 to 20:00. The artist will be present.
Victoria Sambunaris: High and Dry
January 5 – February 18, 2023
Yancey Richardson Gallery
525 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011