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Rediscover Ansel Adams, and Consider His Contemporary Legacy, at the Portland Art Museum

Ansel Adams in Our Time is the exhibition we all need more than one year into the pandemic.

Presented by Portland Art Museum April 19, 2021

Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite National Park. Ansel Adams (American, 1902–1984). 1960. Photograph, gelatin silver print. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Lane Collection

People in Portland and around the world have rekindled their relationship with nature during these many months of the COVID-19 pandemic. With indoor activities restricted and many outlets for recreation offline, getting outside into nature has been a largely COVID-safe activity.

More camping, hiking, and outdoor adventuring has led many to discover new or lost connections to nature, making the upcoming Ansel Adams in Our Time exhibition at the Portland Art Museum all the more relevant. The exhibition opens on May 5, and advance, timed-entry tickets are required.

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. Ansel Adams (American, 1902–1984). 1941; print date: 1965–75. Photograph, gelatin silver print. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Lane Collection

Most people are familiar with photographer Ansel Adams by way of his most popular black-and-white images of nature and the vast American landscape. Reproduced on posters, calendars, and cards, the popularity of his images is a reflection of Adams’s ability to connect viewers with nature, the environment, and ultimately each other.

Ansel Adams in Our Time, on view May 5–August 1 at the newly reopened Portland Art Museum, looks at the celebrated photographer’s career and includes some 100 of his photographs, from his earliest fine-art images to his later masterpieces like The Tetons and Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, and Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite National Park. Interspersed among Adams’s work are 80 images by artists working both before and after him that provide a deeper perspective on themes central to his practice, demonstrate the power of his legacy, and will spark critical conversations about the state of the American landscape in the 21st century.

The Tetons and Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Ansel Adams (American, 1902–1984). 1942. Photograph, gelatin silver print. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Lane Collection

Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Ansel Adams in Our Time illustrates the artist’s embrace of the American landscape as a singular yet remarkably wide-ranging photographic subject. The exhibition’s seven thematic sections chart his influences, his own artistic development and creative range, and the many ways that photographers frame the landscape today.

Highlights include Adams’s early pictorialist works of the Yosemite Valley; emerging modernist views of San Francisco and the American Southwest; and mature photographic celebrations of national parklands including Yellowstone in Wyoming, Glacier Bay National Monument in Alaska, and Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Photographs by contemporary artists Jonathan Calm, Zig Jackson, and Will Wilson question concepts of land ownership and belonging in the American West, while Binh Danh, Abelardo Morell, and Catherine Opie point to the continued fascination with and documentation of the nation’s national parks.

How the West is One. Will Wilson (Native American, Navajo (Diné), born in 1969). 2014. Photograph, inkjet print. Courtesy of the artist

A scroll through any nature Instagram account today will show you Adams’s legacy. The techniques and perspectives that he developed and perfected have endured and influenced everyone from professional photographers to people with camera phones capturing their experiences in the outdoors. Adams’s work emotionally engages viewers—reminding us of the transformative potential of immersing yourself in nature, which is something that has buoyed so many of us over this past year.

Tickets to see the exhibition are by advance, timed-entry tickets only. Tickets are available online at portlandartmuseum.org and are released on a rolling two-week schedule.

Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of Mount Moran and the Snake River from Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Abelardo Morell (American (born in Cuba, 1948)). 2011. Photograph, inkjet print

Prepare for your visit!

Watch: An Ansel Adams in Our Time Exhibition Primer

Read: Making A Photographer: The Early Work of Ansel Adams by Rebecca A. Senf, Ph.D.

Listen: Podcast with Ansel Adams in Our Time curators

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