506 Warren Street
September/October 2006

Parallel Passages

Lynn Davis at the Sites of Frederic Church

The Nicole Fiacco Gallery is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of photographs by internationally acclaimed artist Lynn Davis, curated by Donald McKinney.  The exhibition examines parallels in subject matter between the 21st Century photographer and the 19th Century Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900).  The exhibition includes several text passages from Church’s letters that reference the historically significant monuments and landscapes that are the subjects of Lynn Davis’ photographs; providing the viewer with two related yet distinct perspectives of their timeless subjects.  

For nearly two decades, Lynn Davis has investigated the world’s most remarkable man-made and natural sites. Her photographs of sacred structures and natural vistas extend beyond the 19th century’s concept of the ‘cultured traveler’ to challenge and confirm the sense of permanence that for centuries has inspired reverence for these sites.  The photographs selected for this exhibition by curator Donald McKinney are of locations or subjects that both Lynn Davis and Frederic Edwin Church used in their works.  These include subjects from the Middle East, North & South America, North Africa and Europe.  

From the Middle East, Lynn Davis’ 1995 Petra, Jordon 17 will be on exhibit, mirroring one of Frederic E. Church’s most significant late paintings, the 1874 El Khasneh, Petra, currently traveling in the Treasures of Olana exhibition. Works from Davis’ ongoing Iceberg series, a subject that she and Frederic Edwin Church are both widely known for will also be on view.  Other subjects and places that Davis and Church have in common include Niagara Falls, Nova Scotia, the Andes Mountains and Egypt among others. 

Lynn Davis’ elemental compositions purify her subject into their simplest archetypal forms and transform the image itself into an enduring object of contemplation.  In a 2003 review in Art in America magazine art critic Edward Leffingwell states that “Davis' strong sense of formal abstraction has informed her work throughout the many years of her watchful pilgrimage, while her pursuit of the anima within world monuments has led her to create elegiac images for modern, troubled times.”  Vince Aletti of The Village Voice writes that Davis’ “…large-scale images, reproduced in rich, gold-toned black-and-white, often seem to pay homage to the 19th-century pioneers in the field, but her eye for austere elegance is timeless.”

Lynn Davis is a long time resident of the Hudson Valley where she maintains her studio.  Along with his paintings and letters, Frederic Edwin Church left a legacy in that of his magnificent Hudson Valley home, Olana, inspired by his travels to exotic locales around the world.  

Lynn Davis (American, b. 1944), received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1970, and then trained with Berenice Abbott in New York. In 1979, she had her first exhibition at the International Center of Photography, New York, alongside her close friend Robert Mapplethorpe. Her work underwent a dramatic shift after her first trip to Greenland in 1986 when she gave up the representation of the human form for landscape. Setting herself in the grand tradition of nineteenth century landscape photography Davis has since documented the pyramids of Egypt, the ancient architectural ruins of Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Italy, and the Middle East.   In 1999 Davis’ second monograph, Monument, was released by Arena Editions. Davis’ latest monograph, American Monument, published by Monacelli Press was released in October 2004. Lynn Davis is represented by Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York, NY and Galerie Karsten Greve in Europe. 

Davis’ photographs have been exhibited internationally and collected widely. Her work in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, New York, Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. In 2005, Lynn Davis was a recipient of an Academy Award in Art from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  Lynn Davis’ work has been widely published and reviewed in the following publications: Interview Magazine, Art in America, The Village Voice, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Art Newspaper, the London Times, Vogue, ARTnews , Paris Capitale & Forbes.

Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), one of the premier American landscape painters, will forever be associated with the Hudson River Valley, where he painted and made his home. Immensely popular in the mid-19th century, his paintings are characterized by a calmness and sense of hope.  Born in 1826 in Hartford, Connecticut, Church studied for several years with Thomas Cole, widely regarded as the first exponent of the Hudson River School of painting. Church traveled widely throughout his career, using his sketches of New England, South America, Europe, the Arctic, the Middle East, and North Africa to create the transcendent landscapes.  Church spent his latter years at Olana, his estate on the Hudson River.

Donald McKinney, Curator, was President of Marlborough Galleries in New York for seventeen years and Partner at Hirschl and Adler Modern for ten years.  Over the course of a 40 year career McKinney represented prominent 20th Century artists and their estates including Jackson Pollock, Richard Diebenkorn, Cy Twombly, Lee Krasner and David Hockney.  His breadth of knowledge ranges from conceptual art to photography.  A summary of Donald McKinney’s career can be found in Who’s Who in American Art.

Research Assistance provided by Valerie A. Balint, Associate Curator, Olana.  Thanks to Olana State Historic Site and The Olana Partnership.  www.olana.org

© 2017 Nicole Fiacco  

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