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Lewis and Clark Revisited: A Trail in Modern Day, Photographs by Greg Mac Gregor

December 11, 2004 - February 6, 2005

 

 

(above: Greg Mac Gregor, 2000. Photograph by Jo Whaley)

 

Fascinated by the extensive journals of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, photographer Greg Mac Gregor embarked on a journey in their footsteps across the United States to capture with his camera the contemporary legacy of the explorers' famous 1804-1806 expedition. Mac Gregor's stunning visual chronicle will be on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of a citywide bicentennial celebration of the Lewis and Clark expedition. (right: Greg Mac Gregor, Ameristar II Casino Riverboat, Council Bluffs, Iowa, 1996, gelatin silver print, framed: 23 x 20 inches. © Greg Mac Gregor)

Lewis and Clark Revisited: A Trail in Modern Day, Photographs by Greg Mac Gregor is on view in the Julien Levy Gallery from December 11, 2004 - February 6, 2005. The exhibition presents sixty of the artist's black-and-white photographs of sites along the Corps of Discovery's original route, made over a six-year period from 1993-1999. Excerpts from the explorers' original writings about their encounters and impressions are included, paralleling Mac Gregor's own focus on the human presence in the landscape and his documentation of the American West's transformation during the past 200 years.

"Greg Mac Gregor's journey through eleven states does not attempt to recreate the uncharted Western landscape as it appeared to Lewis and Clark," said Katherine Ware, Curator of Photographs. "By recording the contemporary imprint of power lines, bridges and convenience stores, he presents an unflinching view of the development of the American landscape over two centuries."

Mac Gregor is professor of photography at California State University, Hayward. He received a Master of Arts in photography from San Francisco State University in 1970 and a Master of Science in physics from The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 1964. He has taught both photography and physics at the university level and worked as an astrophysicist. He is the author of Overland: The California Emigrant Trail of 1841­1870. and his work is in the permanent collection of over twenty major museums including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the George Eastman House and the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

The exhibition is traveling to more than fifteen cities throughout the United States as part of the nationwide commemoration of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. and is organized by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services and is coordinated in Philadelphia by Katherine Ware, Curator of Photographs.

The exhibition is accompanied by the book Lewis and Clark Revisited: A Photographer's Trail, by Greg Mac Gregor (2003). The 199-page book, ISBN: 0295983434, edited by Iris Tillman Hill, with an introduction by James P. Ronda, is published by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University in association with the University of Washington Press. (right: front cover of Lewis and Clark Revisited: A Photographer's Trail, by Greg Mac Gregor, photo courtesy University of Washington Press)

University of Washington Press, publisher of Lewis and Clark Revisited: A Photographer's Trail, says:

Like others drawn to the story of the expedition, MacGregor found inspiration in the writings of Lewis and Clark. Their journals provided him with another lens through which to look, the lens of history, and he used their words as his guidebook to follow the human imprint on the old route. The book includes many delightful and revealing extracts from the journals. These historical texts take us back to the time of Lewis and Clark while they illuminate the world represented in MacGregor's contemporary photographs. The interplay of words and images reveals the multiple faces of the landscape and reminds us of the origins of this great story two hundred years ago. [1]

In a book review in the Oregon Historical Quarterly, Rob Masonis of American Rivers, Seattle, WA writes:

In his prologue, MacGregor observes: "Wherever a western river flows, it becomes the center for human activities" (p. xvi). His photographs bear that out. Some photographs reveal this plainly, such as the picture of a ship being loaded at the port of Longview, Washington, on the Columbia River. Others - the ones that I found most impressive and insightful - capture at once the august beauty of the natural landscape and the pervasiveness of our industrial age. One such photograph shows enormous Ryan Dam on the Missouri in the background and in the foreground an ancient rock formation darkened by the shadows of power lines. Conspicuously absent in Lewis and Clark Revisited are photographs of rivers undisturbed by humans.
 
Whether one sees something worth celebrating or mourning - or both - in MacGregor's photographs depends on one's perspective, but the photographs offer much to consider as we ponder the West's future. The certainty of change in the western landscape is clearly conveyed. It would be a mistake to view this change as something that has already happened. It is continuing, as MacGregor deftly reminds us. Some of the most compelling photographs are those that reveal a landscape returning to a more natural state, such as the photograph of a single bridge abutment standing in the middle of the Yellowstone River, having once supported a bridge that has long since disappeared. A photograph of an abandoned railroad track that has been converted to a pedestrian and bike trail in Missouri evinces a postindustrial mindset that has taken root in many communities and is resulting in the intentional deconstruction of the industrial landscape in order to enhance quality of life. [2]

According to Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, Lewis and Clark Revisited: A Trail in Modern Day, Photographs by Greg Mac Gregor is scheduled to tour the following venues after being exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art:

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
St Louis, Missouri: February 27, 2005 through April 24, 2005
 
Kansas City Public Library
Kansas City, Missouri: May 15, 2005 through July 10, 2005
 
National Museum of Wildlife Art
Jackson Hole, Wyoming: July 31, 2005 through September 25, 2005
 
Fullerton Museum Center
Fullerton, California: October 16, 2005 through December 11, 2005
 
Sioux City Art Center
Sioux City, Iowa: March 19, 2006 through May 14, 2006 [3]

 



RL editor's notes:

1. from University of Washington Press web site, accessed 12/20/04

2. Oregon Historical Quarterly, Book Review, (Fall, 2004, Vol 105, No. 3)

3. from Smith Kramer Fine Art Services web site, accessed 12/20/04.

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