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photo: Terry Etherton

Z arts

Mark Klett Then + Now by Herb Stratford Photographer Mark Klett is a modern day enigma. Known world-wide for his stunning large-scale black and white images that trace and invoke past landscape photograph pioneers, he also brings a modern sensibility to his work that is infused with a wide range of emotions. Rarely are artists so agile at capturing both the majesty of their environments along with the complex socio-economic impact of modern man on the same spaces. In Klett’s new show at the Etherton Gallery entitled Then + Now, the photographer again demonstrates both his technical artistry and his keen powers of observation. The exhibition is divided into three sections, the first features a look at several now-classic black and white images of western landscape that are familiar and compelling for their beauty and composition. Long known as one of the finest landscape photographers in the country, if not the world, these images reinforce the beauty of the environment that many of us will never see firsthand. With sweeping vistas and towering rock forms these images look like stills from a science fiction film. The next part of the show features these same black and white images on a larger scale than they have been seen before. This transformation is quite remarkable for a number of reasons. First, the amount of detail that has been captured and not seen before is staggering. Secondly, the images somehow manage to convey an even more powerful respect for the space that is being portrayed. After seeing these jumbo-sized works, it’s hard to go back to the originals. The final set of images in the main exhibition, from the Camino del Diablo 32 | March 2015

series, are entirely new, and are in glorious color. Klett again revisits his passion for history, as for this series he has retraced the route of an 1870 geological survey and photographed what might have been seen along the way. The pages from the book describing the landscape are displayed adjacent to each image, which adds to the experience of seeing this landscape for the first time in both words and images. Ironically, the location of this trek is now part of the Barry M. Goldwater bombing range and US military training area in the Sonoran Desert. As in the past, this juxtaposition of man and nature is handmade for Klett’s eye to document the intersection of man and nature in an uncanny way. These images are drop dead gorgeous and also a little sad. The scale of man in several puts perspective into play, along with the debris that has been left behind, but in the end it’s the staggering beauty of nature at outweighs anything humans are doing. Largely unchanged since the era of the original descriptions in the narrative accompaniment, one can easily imagine being marooned in this foreign landscape in the late 1800s following a dangerous and hard stagecoach journey into the newest area of the United States, and expressing wonder at the exotic flora and fauna. Of particular note is one image of a crescent moon over a barely visible mountain range that sucks the viewer into its rich and inky black midnight tones. Another personal favorite in this series is the beautiful bowl of stars on display in another night scene, something that is hard to imagine to us city-dwellers—sad creatures who rarely see anything but the brightest

Zocalo Magazine - March 2015  

Zocalo is a Tucson based independent magazine focusing on urban arts, culture, entertainment, living, food and events.

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