Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Greater fame may be on the horizon for American photographer Art Sinsabaugh
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- He may not yet be a household name, but certainly Art Sinsabaugh (1924-1983) is an artist ripe for rediscovery. His innovative, large-format photographs of the "distant horizon" and its formal elements -- including buildings, silos, bridges, highways, homes, skyscrapers, trees and gravestones -- capture the ever-changing face of the great American landscape.
The Indiana University Art Museum has organized a retrospective that represents the first complete survey of Sinsabaugh's career ever assembled. It will begin the first leg of its national tour on Oct. 2 at the Art Institute of Chicago and continue through 2005 with stops in Columbus, Ohio; Urbana-Champaign, Ill.; and Bloomington. The exhibit will be on display in Bloomington from Oct. 1 to Dec. 23, 2005.
The retrospective includes over 85 images, the majority of which were drawn from the Art Sinsabaugh Archive at Indiana University Bloomington. It will be accompanied by a long-awaited monograph on the artist, written by the exhibition's guest curator and renowned photography historian, Keith F. Davis. The monograph will be published by Hudson Hills Press.
A student of celebrated photographer Harry Callahan at the Chicago Institute of Design, Sinsabaugh made his artistic breakthrough in the early 1960s with a giant 12 x 20-inch "banquet" camera that he trained on the American landscape. Working in large series, he sought to create an all-encompassing census of the rural and urban places that punctuate our views -- from the cityscapes of Chicago and Baltimore to Midwestern farms, the deserts of the Southwest, and the mountains and resorts of New England.
Sinsabaugh realized that his landscapes were more than pretty "panoramas." They reflected his slowly developing pattern of social awareness. Shooting during a period of dramatic economic shifts, he was particularly drawn to urban and rural environments in transition -- "before something was to go up or as something was coming down."
Sinsabaugh's cool, clear aesthetic has been described as a mixture of the great expansive vision of 19th-century landscape photographers with mid-20th century formalism. Like Eugène Atget's views of Paris, Sinsabaugh's photographs possess a remarkable quality of timeless beauty, while at the same time documenting a particular moment. His straightforward, detached viewpoint and inclusion of ordinary scenes -- from car lots to strip malls -- also link him to the environmental concerns of the next generation of New Topographic photographers.
Although Sinsabaugh is admired by many scholars, photographers and curators as an important photographic innovator, his fame has been limited by his working methodology. As one of the earliest photographers to produce small limited editions (often not more than three), his mounted exhibition prints are extremely rare.
The exhibition will survey all aspects of the artist's oeuvre, from his early design studies through his late work in the American Southwest. Although there will be special emphasis on his two most important series, the Midwest Landscape Group and the Chicago Landscape Group, examples from his lesser-known materials, including his portrait group and color work, will also be included.
The Art Sinsabaugh Archive includes over 3,000 photographs, as well as the artist's negatives, master slides and papers. It is open to the public and scholars by request.