Mark Ruwedel photography archive committed to Stanford

April 3, 2019
Peter P Blank

Mark Ruwedel. “San Diego and Arizona Eastern #7” (2007)
Archival inkjet print, 30” x 40”
Copyright Mark Ruwedel

Renowned photographer Mark Ruwedel (b. 1954), winner of the Scotiabank Photography Award (2014) and a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2014), and currently short-listed for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize (2019), has committed to placing his archive with Stanford Libraries. With numerous publications and exhibitions to his credit, and with works held in such major museums as the Tate Modern in London, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie in Paris and many others, Ruwedel is a creative force in today’s international photography community.

Through the assistance of donors Peter Barbur and Tim Doody, the Libraries have received 454 works by Ruwedel to date, including mounted and unmounted gelatin silver prints, 30” x 40” digital pigment prints, hand-produced photobooks and albums, and other photographic works. Known primarily as a Western landscape photographer, Ruwedel has acknowledged a varied range of artistic influences from such important 19th century photographers as Carleton Watkins (held in depth by Stanford Libraries Special Collections) and William Henry Jackson, the 1970s New Topographics photographers such as Lewis Baltz and Robert Adams, Earthworks artists such as Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer, and the conceptual works of Richard Long. Consequently Ruwedel’s work is of special value within a teaching institution such as Stanford University, providing multiple opportunities from which to investigate diverse aspects of 19th, 20th, and 21st century art and photographic practices. But it is the imprint of geological and human history seen in Ruwedel’s imagery that perhaps makes it most significant for use in such a varied and interdisciplinary research environment as Stanford’s.

With faintly drawn hand lettering or bold press type titles identifying geological and human occurrences and geographic locations, and broad landscapes vistas picturing the Western terrain, Ruwedel’s various series foreground a host of historical, economic and political issues with the viewer. The unbroken stretch of the Columbia River along the Hanford nuclear power works (“The Hanford Stretch”), the abandoned raised beds, trestles, tunnels and hillside cuts of railroads no longer in service (“Westward the Course of Empire”), reforestation in British Columbia (“BC Coast”) and the remnants of America's atomic bomb projects of the 1940s (“The Italian Navigator”) are but a few of the series Ruwedel has produced where the vastness of nature and the tracings of civilization share pictorial space in a somewhat anxious truce. Also interspersed with these series, and sometimes within the same works, are allusions to the enormity of geological time -- the Lake Bonneville flood of some 15,000 years ago (“Report on Lake Bonneville”) or the marks of ancient aboriginal footpaths (“Ice Age”). Even the “Pictures of Hell” series focuses on the human imprint on our natural world, but in this case the imprint is that of language’s labelling and occupation, usually by settlers moving West as they overwrote indigenous people’s names of their arid and desert homelands with English references to “Hell” or “Devil.”

Works have already been shown in several photography courses (ARTSTUDI 170, Photo 1-Black & White, ARTSTUDI 171, Photo 1-Digital, and ARTSTUDI 275, Photo 2-Digital 2), as well as ARTHIST 246N, Pacific Dreams: Art in California. A Spotlight exhibition and a physical exhibition are being planned. Works will be made available for exhibition loan to institutions by submitting a formal loan request to Special Collections, Stanford Libraries.

The Ruwedel commitment is the second received by the Libraries as part of the recently launched Stanford Libraries Photography Initiative, which will focus on the acquisition of photographers’ archives. Arthur Tress, noted American photographer best known for his beautifully conceived and executed works dealing with human fantasy, has also committed his archive to Stanford Libraries.

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