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Todd Walker at 100; Frank Gohlke, Speeding Trucks and Other Follies

Dates: November 5 – January 6, 2018
Opening Reception: Saturday, November 18th, 2017, 7-10 pm
Location: Etherton Gallery
135 S. Sixth Avenue
Gallery Hours: 11 - 5 Tuesday through Saturday and by appointment
Contact: Daphne Srinivasan, 520-624-7370, info@ethertongallery.com


Todd Walker Frank Gohlke Stephen Strom


Etherton Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition celebrating the 100th birthday of photographer Todd Walker (1917-1997). Todd Walker at 100 and Frank Gohlke, Speeding Trucks and Other Follies, opens with a reception, 7-10pm, Saturday, November 18th, 2017 and runs through January 6, 2018. The exhibition explores the consistent thread of Walker’s career, experimentation. Walker was a prolific photographer, printmaker, and book artist who is best known for his layered, manipulated prints and his use of offset lithography and screenprinting. He revived and reinterpreted 19th century photographic processes, and later experimented with early digital photography made possible by the first Apple computers. Named after his forthcoming book, Speeding Trucks and Other Follies (Steidl, 2018) brings together three bodies of work by preeminent landscape photographer, Frank Gohlke. Made during 1971-1972, they establish his early and abiding sensitivity to the landscapes of ordinary life. Etherton Gallery is the first venue to show this body of work. Photographs of Bears Ears National Monument by photographer and former astronomer Stephen Strom will be on display in the in-house pop-up gallery. All three photographers taught in their respective fields at the University of Arizona. Gohlke is the first and only Laureate Professor at the School of Art.

Although less well-known than some of his colleagues, Todd Walker was part of a group of photographers including Robert Heinecken, and Robert Fichter who were engaged in questioning photographic conventions established by Beaumont Newhall and Ansel Adams. Walker left behind a successful 25-year career as an advertising photographer, with clients such as Ford, Chevrolet, Lockheed and Bank of America to pursue an interest in the transformational possibilities of photography. His experiments with 19th century processes anticipated the return to “alternative processes” as they became known in the 21st century. His experiments with silkscreen and offset lithography paralleled the interests of Pop Artists Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg. Finally, Walker predicted the rise of digital photography and the demise of the 20th century darkroom processes that had come to define the medium.

Etherton Gallery will exhibit a selection of photographs from Frank Gohlke’s latest project in the Axial Gallery. In the summer of 1971 Frank Gohlke moved with his wife and young daughter from Middlebury, Vermont to Minneapolis, Minnesota. He had just embarked on a career in photography, and was in the process of working out the subject that would occupy him for the next 45 years: the landscapes of ordinary life. The three bodies of work brought together in Speeding Trucks and Other Follies were all made between Gohlke’s arrival in Minneapolis and the end of 1972.  Gohlke made photographs of speeding trucks when he noticed how the shadows of the elm trees that once lined most Minneapolis streets briefly materialized on the bodies of passing trucks. Photographs of travel trailers were all made in a Minnesota State Park on one of the family’s infrequent camping trips, while late-night rambles through Gohlke’s Minneapolis neighborhood led to his series of dramatic nocturnes.  A small selection of photographs from Gohlke’s well-known Grain Elevator series will also be on display.

Stephen Strom’s background in astronomy has given him a unique viewpoint as a landscape photographer. In December 2016 President Obama protected an area of southeastern Utah that has become a visual shorthand for the majesty of the American West, by making it a national monument now known as Bears Ears National Monument. Named for twin buttes visible for sixty miles in all directions, Bears Ears National Monument protects an area spanning more than 2,000 square miles, whose status is already under review by the current Secretary of the Interior. Strom’s photographs capture the singular beauty of Bears Ears country, its abstract textural subtleties, its expansive landscapes and skies, deep canyons, mystifying spires, and towering mesas, making the argument that protecting this land is not only central to the identity of the American West, but the source of America’s greatness.

For more information about Todd Walker at 100, Frank Gohlke, Speeding Trucks and Other Follies or to schedule an interview with Frank Gohlke or Stephen Strom, please contact Daphne Srinivasan or Hannah Glasston at (520) 624-7370 or info@ethertongallery.com.

Todd Walker (1917-1998)

Photographer and print maker, Todd Walker is best known for expanding the practice of photography beyond the conventions of the straight print during the 1960s and 1970s. Growing up in Los Angeles, his first exposure to photography was through his father, a draughtsman and architect who worked for Hollywood movie studios and developed photographs in the family’s bathroom.  Shortly after his father’s death in 1931, Walker took a job as a painter’s apprentice at RKO studios, where learned about mixing color. During 1938-1940 he studied photography part-time at the Art Center School in Los Angeles under Edward Kaminski. Kaminski introduced his students to Surrealist painting by Braque, Picasso and Dali and encouraged his students to experiment with surrealistic techniques in their photographs. In the early 1940s, Walker worked with Shirley Burden, whose company Tradefilms, Inc. made educational training films for Lockheed, the US Department of Education and the US Navy during the war. Walker served as a fighter pilot instructor in Arizona.

In 1946, Walker and Burden established a commercial photography studio in Beverly Hills and their work appeared in House & Garden, Arts & Architecture and Arts Form. In 1950, Burden left and over the next decade Walker became a successful commercial photographer in his own right, at the forefront of the shift in advertising media from illustration to photography. His clients included Charles & Rae Eames, TV Guide and Chevrolet and his photographs were featured in LIFE and the Saturday Evening Post. However, dissatisfied with the creative limitations imposed by work for hire, he began pursuing his own projects between assignments. Over the next 40 years Walker researched and experimented with a number of photographic processes and techniques including the sabattier or solarized print, collotype, half tone, silk-screen, cyanotype, gum bichromate and van dyke print. He also established Thumbprint Press and published approximately 25 artist books and portfolios.

By the mid 1960s, Walker was spending less time in the studio and had begun teaching photography part-time at the Art Center College in Pasadena. After meeting photographer Robert Heinecken (1931-2006) at a meeting of the Society for Photographic Education, Heineken invited him to teach extension classes at UCLA. Heinecken and Robert Fichter (b. 1939) who also taught at UCLA, shared Walker’s interest in alternative photographic processes and printing techniques and encouraged Walker to quit commercial photography and teach full time. In 1970, at the age of 50, Walker closed up his Los Angeles studio and took a one-year position as Assistant Professor of Photography at the University of Florida to replace Jerry Uelsmann who was taking a sabbatical. Walker remained in Florida until 1977, when he moved to Tucson to teach at the new photography department at the University of Arizona. In the early 80s, Walker began exploring early digital photography. Todd Walker died in 1998.  Over the course of a sixty-year career, Todd Walker played an important role in questioning the established conventions of photographic modernism and transmitting those ideas to his students.

Todd Walker’s photographs are in the permanent collections of many public institutions in the United States and Europe including: The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Bibliothèque National, Paris; and the Chicago Art Institute.


Frank Gohlke (b. 1942

Frank Gohlke began photographing as a twenty-five year-old student of English Literature in the Yale Graduate Studies program. When a bout of writer’s block left him doubting his future as a doctoral candidate, he began experimenting with a recently acquired Super 8 movie camera, resulting in a few little films of the Connecticut shoreline. Frustrated by the limitations of his amateur equipment and the expense of the process, he bought a 35mm reflex camera and started taking pictures. Before long he had received encouragement from Walker Evans and sought out the tutelage of Paul Caponigro. All inclinations toward a career in academia vanished, and photography remained. What began as an elegant form of procrastination has evolved into a decades-long career of lyrical and studied investigation into the vicissitudes of a man-altered landscape.

As a native of Wichita Falls, Texas, a city that can be said to reside not in a corner of the world but atop one of its uncreased vastnesses, Gohlke’s photographic sensibility has always tended towards the unadorned. Gohlke’s is a mind acutely aware that the provisions man makes for his survival are more often than not quotidian in character. He conducts an excavation of the present, undertaken without artifice and with a scientific diligence. He is drawn to landscapes marked (and at times, marred) by their legacy of human habitation. Although seldom seen in his spare compositions, the human figure is not absent from Gohlke’s pictures: it is latent within them.
Gohlke’s pivotal grain elevator project, begun soon after Gohlke’s arrival in Minneapolis in 1971 after seven years in hilly, forested New England, examines a particularly American piece of architecture and its place within a particularly American landscape: the Big Empty. The silos, each a monolith erected in the name of maximized utility, brim with cultural data, avowals of the health of the agricultural system and the community sent heavenward. Their scale, proportions, number, material, and their situation within the landscape all connote meaning, and Gohlke’s methodical documentation of their variations stops just short of typology. Through his lens the elevators are at once familiar and profoundly alien, fixtures of the Midwestern topography and recently excavated ruins that just happen to still be functioning.

Gohlke’s compositions unify apparently incongruent systems of organization. In Looking South Across the Red River Near Byers, Texas (1984), the rigid geometry of a trestle bridge, radically foreshortened, seems to pull the eye about ten miles due south in a glance, while a roiling mass of foliage bends toward the right of the frame under the force of an easterly wind. The viewer stands at the metaphorically potent intersection of two lines of force, an interchange of nature and culture, rigorous order and tumult.

In Grain Elevators, Minneapolis (1974), the vantage point sits amidst a riotous confluence (cacophony?) of serried rows of streetlights, telephone wires, low-lying planters, capillary-like tree limbs, and meandering animal tracks in the snow, all presided over by a line of silos. Gohlke becomes a forensic scientist calculating bullet trajectories after a gunfight, the disparate elements in the frame crystallizing into something that looks a lot like order.
If this is the picture I think it is, then the setting of the photograph is even more banal than what you so beautifully describe: it’s a Putt-Putt miniature golf course. It also happens that this is the course where I and three artist friends played many a desperately serious game, with wins and losses faithfully tabulated over several years. The grain elevator in the background was eventually converted into condominiums, if you can believe it.

When looking at Gohlke’s pictures of downed timber following the Mt. St. Helens blast, what is most striking is that the devastation, despite having been wrought by forces several orders of magnitude beyond human capability, has conformed to familiar laws of physics. The felled trees are so regular in their distribution that they come to resemble iron filings arrayed around a magnet.

Across Gohlke’s oeuvre, geographical features and meteorological phenomena alike are treated as rich texts that reward the careful observer with glimpses of their history. He has no aversion toward including sublime elements in his photographs; indeed his project could not sustain itself without them. His investigation of human activities within the landscape would be incomplete without giving equal expression to the forces in defiance of which they persist.

The majority of Gohlke’s subjects constitute, to borrow a phrase from Ben Lifson’s A Figure and a Landscape, “local instances and local variations of forms that can be found everywhere. ” The Mount St. Helens series is the notable exception within Gohlke’s photographic catalogue that would seem to contradict this formulation. The body of work depicts the aftermath of an event that is truly cataclysmic, not only newsworthy but of historical note. Despite the apocalyptic nature of the eruption, Gohlke is never sensational; he is, in his own words, “more of an archaeologist than a reporter. ” He arrives after the 24-megaton blast, after the enveloping cloud of ash, to sift through the rubble. The work of nearly a decade, the Mt. St. Helens photographs attempt to make an accounting of some small piece of the infinitely complex web of causality laid bare in the wake of the disaster, and to pay homage to the steady insistence with which life, human and otherwise, begins to reassert itself.

Gohlke recently exhibited Ten Minutes in North Texas, a series of diptychs of his home state, each pair taken ten minutes apart from each other, at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York and then at the UMass Dartmouth University Art Gallery in New Bedford, MA. The changes between the photographs are miniscule, practically imperceptible, slight shifts of perspective or inconsistencies in cloud formations that evoke the feeling of standing no place in particular and just looking. These contemplative landscapes recall another pairing of photographs also made ten minutes apart. They depict the rim of Mount St. Helens before and after a landslide; in the first frame, a gaggle of tourists clusters on an outcropping of rock. In the second, the outcropping is entirely gone and the tourists have receded, presumably in terror. Even though it makes a better story the way you describe it, in fact the raven occupies the same ground the tourists did. I moved about 30 feet closer between the two frames, so it looks surprisingly different – the sun helps. The landslide was about 500 ft. below where I’m standing on the rim. There was a small quake that I didn’t feel that must have shook the material loose from the wall of the crater.  The contrast between these two pictures and the North Texas diptychs illustrates one of the profound truths of Gohlke’s work: change, be it dramatic or barely evident, is a universal fact of nature. From Gohlke’s vantage point, how we measure the events before our eyes is in a sense immaterial, whether in feet per second, tons displaced, or simply the number of long exhales, or shufflings of feet, or grains of dirt picked from under a fingernail, as the sun travels a fraction of a degree across a Texas sky.

Gohlke has participated in commissions from the Seagrams Corporation; AT&T; the Laboratorio di Fotografia in Reggio Emilia, Italy; and the George Gund Foundation in Cleveland. He has received commissions for public projects for the Tulsa International Airport, for an office complex in Basel, Switzerland, for the City of Venice and for the Mission Photographique de la DATAR, a French government-sponsored agency documenting the French landscape.

He has work in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Chicago Art Institute, the Australian National Gallery, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the National Gallery of Canada. He has received numerous awards, among them two Guggenheim fellowships, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Film in the Cities Photography Fellowship from the McKnight Foundation. Most recently, he has been awarded a Fulbright Research Fellowship for 2013 – 2014. In Fall 2013 he will travel to Kazakhstan to document the wild apple forests surrounding the city of Almaty, the birthplace of the ubiquitous fruit and a rapidly disappearing wellspring of biological diversity.

Gohlke has published numerous books of photography, including Accommodating Nature: The Photographs of Frank Gohlke, Center for American Places, 2007; Mount St. Helens, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, 2004; and Measure of Emptiness: Grain Elevators in the American Landscape, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 1992. In addition to his photographic publications, in 2009 Frank published Thoughts on Landscape, a collection of essays, interviews, and musings spanning five decades, as compelling and uniquely his own as his pictures.

Gohlke has taught at Massachusetts College of Art; the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley College; the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the universities of Harvard, Princeton and Yale. He is currently a Laureate Professor of Photography at the University of Arizona and the Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Creative Photography, both in Tucson, AZ, where he and his wife make their home.


Stephen Strom (b. 1942)

Stephen Strom spent his professional career as an astronomer. He graduated from Harvard College in 1962. In 1964 he received his Masters and Ph.D. in Astronomy from Harvard University. From 1964-68 he held appointments as Lecturer in Astronomy at Harvard and Astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. He then moved to the State University of New York at Stony Brook and served for four years as Coordinator of Astronomy and Astrophysics. In 1972 he accepted an appointment at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, AZ, where he served as Chair of the Galactic and Extragalactic program. The following 15 years were spent at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA; from 1984-1997 he served as Chairman of the Five College Astronomy Department. In 1998 Strom returned to Tucson as a member of the scientific staff at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, where he carried out research directed at understanding the formation of stars and planetary systems and served as an Associate Director of the Observatory. He retired from NOAO in May 2007.

Strom began photographing in 1978. He studied both the history of photography and silver and non-silver photography in studio courses with Keith McElroy, Todd Walker and Harold Jones at the University of Arizona. His work, largely interpretations of landscapes, has been exhibited widely throughout the United States and is held in several permanent collections including the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, the University of Oklahoma Art Museum, the Mead Art Museum in Amherst, MA, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

His photography is featured in three books published by the University of Arizona Press: Secrets from the Center of the World, a collaboration with Muscogee poet Joy Harjo; Sonoita Plain: Views of a Southwestern Grassland, a collaboration with ecologists Jane and Carl Bock; Tseyi (Deep in the Rock): Reflections on Canyon de Chelly, co-authored with Navajo poet Laura Tohe; as well as in Otero Mesa: America’s Wildest Grassland, with Gregory McNamee and Stephen Capra, University of New Mexico Press (2008). A monograph, Earth Forms, was published in 2009 by Dewi Lewis Publishing. Sand Mirrors, a collaboration with Zen teacher and poet Richard Clarke, was published by Polytropos Press in 2012. Earth and Mars: A Reflection, which comprises Strom’s terrestrial landscapes with images of the Martian surface, was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2015. Death Valley: Painted Light with poet Alison Deming was published by George F. Thompson Press in 2016 and is distributed by the University of Arizona Press. Tidal Rhythms: Change and Resilience at the Edge of the Sea with essayist Barbara Hurd was published by George F. Thompson Press in 2016.