03 January 2011

Peter Ainsworth

Photograph © Peter Ainsworth, from the series Concrete Island.

Over at HuffPost you can find this top-ten list of artists who not only are "emerging" but whom the critic deems especially promising within that category! (Maybe I am a bit cranky today, but I find it presumptuous when critics anoint as "emerging" primarily those artists who the critic herself or himself has noticed. It is simply another instance of the critic - or curator or award jury member - as taste-maker that I've noted here before.)

In any case, the sole photographer on the list is Peter Ainsworth. In this interview, Ainsworth explains that he is preoccupied "with social, political and functional use of the landscape: boundaries that are blurred when one reaches the outskirts of any city." And he remarks that, after meandering through various more contrived approaches his work is "returning to the document. To depicting what I see around me." Fair enough. But the image I've lifted here is (if I understand correctly) part of series taken in a highway underpass which Ainsworth had to actively (if somewhat inadvertently) discover. It didn't pop up in his field of vision in any simple way. In that sense his experience is like Edward Burtynsky initially stumbling on otherworldly landscapes around mines.

I actually think much of Ainsworth's work (I find the term "practice," which he himself uses repeatedly, obnoxious) quite good. But his preoccupation with the periphery of landscapes really reminds me of Robert Adams or Richard Misrach; and, theoretically, his focus on the human traces on the landscape brings to mind Rebecca Solnit's various writings on the topic.



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