A culmination of four years photographing throughout Oregon, Washington, and Northern California, Eirik Johnson: Sawdust Mountain focuses on the tenuous relationship between industries reliant upon natural resources and the communities they support. Timber and salmon are the bedrock of a regional Northwest identity, but the environmental impact of these industries is increasingly at odds with the contemporary ideal of sustainability. In this exhibition (and the accompanying Aperture book of the same title), Eirik Johnson reveals a landscape imbued with an uncertain future—no longer the region of boomtowns built upon the riches of massive old growth forests. The exhibition is curated by Elizabeth A. Brown, Chief Curator, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, where the exhibition originated and was on view last October through January 2010.
Johnson, a Seattle native, describes his photographs as “a melancholy love letter of sorts, my own personal ramblings.” Through this poetic approach, Eirik Johnson: Sawdust Mountain records a region affected by historic economic complexities and, by extension, aspects of our fraught relationship with the environment in the twenty-first century.
In a feature on the work published in FT Weekend Magazine last fall, Claire Holland writes, “Although the images are unsentimental, many exert a strangely emotive tug—part nostalgia for an optimistic past, part sadness that a natural environment, indelibly marked and altered by mankind, is dissolving before our eyes.”
Johnson’s work evokes the 19th century landscapes of Carleton Watkins, one of the first artists to document this region, and the work of Depression-era photographer Walker Evans.
Sawdust Mountain is made possible, in part, by the generous support of The Turner Foundation, Inc. The exhibition Eirik Johnson: Sawdust Mountain is supported by ArtsFund, PONCHO, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and Patrons of the Henry Art Gallery.
Eirik Johnson’s (born in Seattle, 1974) work has been exhibited at venues such as the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, and George Eastman House, Rochester, New York. He has received several awards, including the Santa Fe Prize (2005) and a William J. Fulbright Grant to travel to Peru (1999–2000). His work is held in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; National Fulbright Foundation; and Joseph and Elaine Monsen. His first monograph, Borderlands, was published in 2005. Johnson is represented by G. Gibson Gallery, Seattle, and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco; he is an assistant professor of photography at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, where he resides.
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