Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Mark Ruwedel

Begun in 1994, photographer Mark Ruwedel's epic series 'Westward the Course of Empire' charts the course of the vast measure of abandoned railroads that weave across America, and which once epitomised the industrial prowess and ambition of a country in fine health. The seemingly inevitable consequences of industrial expansion and cheaper ways of transporting freight or people led to the demise of much of the railroad infrastructure. Time and the elements have now taken their toll, and these railroads now appear like scars (some more faded than others) on the landscape. Ruwedel uses an 8" x 10" plate camera to record the inevitably bleak scenes he encounters, but his camera captures a strange beauty in these scenes nonetheless. Inevitably by choosing The American Landscape for such a long-term project Ruwedel places himself in the shadow of giants such as Carleton Watkins and Ansel Adams. But what he captures in his shots, whilst often mundane at first glance, acknowledges their legacy whilst showing an awareness of much more recent endeavours by artists such as Richard Long, with his interventions in remote wilderness, or the endlessly-influential Bechers and their repetitive documentation of variations on the same theme. Ruwedel even chooses to show his prints as the Bechers did, in grids of small prints which emphasise the similarities and variations of the epic West.

Kettle Valley #44, 2000

Tonopah and Tidewater #25, 2002

Denver and Rio Grande Western #7, 1996

Tonopah and Tidewater #6, 1995

Spokane Portland and Seattle #31, 1998

Kettle Valley #21, 1999

Central Pacific #18, 1994

Columbia and Western #8, 1999

Camas Prairie #20, 2006

Columbia and Western #20, 2000

Deep Creek #2, 1999

Picacho and Colorado River #3, 2000

Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation #13, 2000

Installation view

All images © Mark Ruwedel/Yossi Milo Gallery

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