Frank Gohlke, Grain elevator and lightning flash, Lamesa, Texas, 1975, Gelatin silver print, © 1975 Frank Gohlke, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.

Frank Gohlke, Gwinn Estate, Bratenahl, Ohio, 1997, Gelatin silver print, Collection of the artist, © 1997 Frank Gohlke.

Frank Gohlke, Reservoir #1, the Sudbury River, Framingham, Massachusetts, September 1991, Chromogenic development print, Collection of the artist, © 1991 Frank Gohlke.

Frank Gohlke, Chemical Brook enters the Sudbury River, Ashland, Massachusetts, December 1991, Chromogenic development print, Collection of the artist, © 1991 Frank Gohlke.

Frank Gohlke, A woman watering her garden, near Kirkville, Mississippi, 1986, Chromogenic development print, Collection of the artist, © 1986 Frank Gohlke.

Frank Gohlke, Aerial view: looking southeast over Windy Ridge and, visitors parking lot, 4.5 miles northeast of Mount St. Helens, Washington, 1983, Gelatin silver print, Collection of the artist © 1983 Frank Gohlke.

Frank Gohlke's Documentation of America's Inverted Pastorale

Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery
8th and F Streets, NW
202-633-1000
Washington, D.C.
Accommodating Nature: The Photographs of Frank Gohlke
December 5, 2008-March 3, 2009

For more than 30 years, Frank Gohlke (b. 1942), a leading figure in American landscape photography, has explored the ways Americans build their lives in a natural world that rarely fits within a traditional pastoral ideal. This midcareer retrospective, which captures Gohlke’s long-standing fascination with nature’s proclivities for growth, destruction and unexpected change, features more than 80 photographs — both black-and-white and color prints — spanning the artist’s career from the early 1970s through 2004. Gohlke’s photographs reflect how people interact with an environment that can never fully be controlled.

Whether photographing his hometown of Wichita Falls, Texas; the grain elevators that punctuate the vast spaces of the Midwest; the effect of the 1980 volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state; or the neighborhoods of Queens, N.Y., Gohlke deftly captures the tension between humanity and the natural world, exploring how people adapt to the forces of nature both great and small, even within the confines of their own backyards. The exhibition was organized by John Rohrbach, senior curator of photographs at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas; Toby Jurovics, curator of photography at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, is the coordinating curator in Washington, D.C.

Although he was born in Texas, Gohlke’s geographical range includes central France, the American South and Midwest, New England and Mount St. Helens after a volcanic eruption.

Gohlke received his B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin in English Literature. At Yale University, where he received his MA in English in 1966, Gohlke met Walker Evans and then studied privately with Paul Caponigro. Gohlke’s photographs came to notice in the influential 1975 group exhibition New Topographics: Images of a Man – Altered Landscape at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, New York.

 

Gohlke received his B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin in English Literature. At Yale University, where he received his MA in English in 1966, Gohlke met Walker Evans and then studied privately with Paul Caponigro. Gohlke’s photographs came to notice in the influential 1975 group exhibition New Topographics: Images of a Man – Altered Landscape at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, New York.

He has taught at Massachusetts College of Art; the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley College; the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the universities of Harvard, Princeton and Yale. As of September 2007, he is Laureate Professor of Photography at the University of Arizona and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Creative Photography, both in Tucson, Arizona.

He is represented in many private and public collections, including the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

Gohlke has participated in important commissions from the Seagrams Corporation; AT&T; the Laboratorio di Fotografia in Reggio Emilia, Italy; the George Gund Foundation in Cleveland. He has received commissions for public projects for the Tulsa International Airport, for an office complex in Basel, Switzerland, for the City of Venice and for the Mission Photographique de la DATAR, a French government-sponsored agency documenting the French landscape.

The catalog, published by the Center for American Places with the Amon Carter Museum, is written by Rohrbach with contributions by Gohlke and Rebecca Solnit, writer and critic. It will be available in the museum store for $35.

Accommodating Nature: The Photographs of Frank Gohlke is organized by the Amon Carter Museum and is made possible in part by generous support from the Perkins-Prothro Foundation, Exelon Power and the Vin and Caren Prothro Foundation. The Smithsonian American Art Museum wishes to express its thanks to Charles and Judith Moore and Mark Schwartz and Bettina Katz for their support of the exhibition’s presentation in Washington, D.C. The Bernie Stadiem Endowment Fund provided additional support for the exhibition..

Frank Gohlke, Aftermath: The Wichita Falls Tornado, 4503 McNeil, looking north, April 14, 1979; Gelatin silver prints (diptych), Collection of the artist, © 1979 and 1980 Frank Gohlke.

Frank Gohlke, Aftermath: The Wichita Falls Tornado, 4503 McNeil, looking north, June 1980, Gelatin silver prints (diptych), Collection of the artist, © 1979 and 1980 Frank Gohlke.

Frank Gohlke, Marsh fire (2), Bolivar Peninsula, Texas, 1978, Gelatin silver print, Collection of the artist,© 1978 Frank Gohlke.

Frank Gohlke, Hillsboro, Texas, 1978, Gelatin silver print, Collection of the artist,© 1978 Frank Gohlke.

Frank Gohlke, Building in the shadow of a grain elevator, Cashion, Oklahoma, 1973, Gelatin silver print, Collection of the artist, © 1973 Frank Gohlke.