John Pfahl* – Métamorphoses de la Terre

27.08.2012 in10:55 in Art -->


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Echoing his landmark “Altered Landscapes” from the 1970s. John Pfahl’s latest series of photographs embraces the digital age. The concept of “Métamorphoses de la Terre” came to him while reviewing some pictures of lava formations surrounding a Hawaiian volcano that he took in 1993, but never printed. The flow-patterned, hard basalt landscapes prompted him to experiment with his computer to simulate accelerated geological forces of nature. What was formerly liquid and then solidified, magically, through his ministrations, became liquid once again.

Pfahl went on to review some thirty years worth of negatives and transparencies made intermittently while working on other projects in the deserts of the American Southwest. Many of the landscapes photographed were formed over long periods of time by the forces of fluid dynamics. Multiple layers of limestone, sandstone and mudstone deposited by vast inland seas over the millenia were sculpted by wind and water into an aggregation of different shapes, textures and colors. They represented for the artist a manifestation of deep history written in nature. During his travels, Pfahl could not resist photographing bizarre geological formations in the ancient terrains of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Wyoming. In this exhibit, the baroque, digitally inspired transformations he applied to his photographs were, in many cases, no more extreme than the originals he found in the landscape.

“Métamorphoses de la Terre,” the title chosen for this series, comes from the late nineteenth-century French translation of a tome by the great English philosopher and scientist Humphrey Davy.