Ansel Adams - PHOTOGRAPHS New York Friday, October 8, 2010 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    The Annex Galleries, Santa Rosa

  • Literature

    Alinder & Szarkowski, Ansel Adams: Classic Images, pls. 20, 45, 53 and 54; Little, Brown & Company, The Portfolios of Ansel Adams, cover and pls. 1-12; Szarkowski, Ansel Adams at 100, pls. 53, 69, 109 and 110

  • Catalogue Essay

    Titles include: Mount McKinley, Alaska, 1948; Saguaro Cactus, Sunrise, Arizona, 1946; The White Church, Hornitos, California, 1946; Mormon Temple, Manti, Utah, 1948; Refugio Beach, California, 1946; Rapids Below Vernal Fall, Yosemite Valley, 1948; Vine and Rock, Island of Hawaii, T.H., 1948; Oak Tree, Snow Storm, Yosemite, 1948; Roots, Foster Gardens, Honolulu, T.H., 1948; Trailside, Near Juneau, Alaska, 1948; Alfred Stieglitz, An American Place, New York, 1938; Clouds Above Golden Canyon, Death Valley, California, 1946
    Common interpretations of Ansel Adams’s photographs normally result in his being labeled as a “Landscape Photographer.” While true at first impression, the skill and style that Adams had dutifully developed and personalized merits a second glance, one that carefully considers not only the geographical context, but the artistic context in which the images were taken, or in other words, the images’ existence at the nexus of topography and photography. That the images are reverential of nature, basking in its glory and miraculous awe, is undeniable. However, as importantly, the images are not intended for geological, cartographical or meteorological purposes, and if for no other reason then for exceeding the standard function of recording. Hence, they exemplify the manner in which light can affect a given feature—from something as minute as a fern leaf to something as grandiose as a rugged mountain range—and accordingly change its appearance, texture, and consequentially, the viewers’ reaction. Put differently, in Adams’s lens, the geographical feature is a vessel to showcase the power and beauty of light, in all of its tonal range and endless gradations. As a result, the images are continuously infused with a magical, ethereal feel, interlinked through the evocation of an emotional reaction to, as well as a literal reading of the subject matter.  In Portfolio One: Twelve Photographic Prints, 1948, (Lot 110), a Saguaro Cactus in Arizona is depicted with the same regal monumentality as Mount McKinley in Alaska; a Mormon temple in Utah towers as elegantly as a snow-covered Oak tree in Yosemite; and a bundle of snaking roots in Honolulu appear as fuid as the rippling waves at Refugio Beach in California. Through his mastery of light’s complexities, the twelve images are leveled and interconnected, transcending their own materiality, refecting Adams’s mantra that “A true photograph need not be explained, nor can be explained in words.”Similarly, in Portfolio Three: Yosemite Valley, 1960, (Lot 142), the Monolith of Half Dome is invigorated with the same rush and thunderous energy as the Lower Yosemite Fall; the intimate view of the branches in snow is as wondrous as the imposing cloud hovering over Half Dome; and the Dogwood Blossoms appear to futter above the ground as whimsically as the bubbling foam in Water and Foam. The sixteen images speak of a cohesive narrative that is greater than the views of Yosemite Valley, one that speaks of a poetic, lyrical existence as much as a physical one. Of this portfolio, Adams has stated “This collection is, in a way, a personal autobiography in photographic images, the selection of which is based on emotional impulse and personal experience rather than an intellectual or historical judgment.” And clearly, one that has been liberated from geographical or chronological associations.


Portfolio One: Twelve Photographic Prints

San Francisco: Self-published, 1948. Twelve gelatin silver prints.
Varying sizes from 4 3/4 x 6 1/2 in. (12.1 x 16.5 cm) to 7 1/2 x 9 1/2 in. (19.1 x 24.1 cm) or the reverse.
Each signed by the artist and sequentially numbered 1-12 in an unidentified hand in pencil on the mount; each numbered '37', sequentially numbered 1-12 in an unidentified hand in pencil on the mount; each numbered '37', sequentially numbered 1-12 in an unidentified hand in ink and portfolio credit reproduction limitation stamp on the reverse of the mount. Number 37 from an edition of 75. Colophon. Title Page. Signed introduction. Contained in a folio case with printed credit, title and date.

$60,000 - 80,000 


8 October 2010
New York