Michael Snow
Clothed Woman (In Memory of my Father) 1963
oil and lucite on canvas
152 x 386.2 cm
Purchased 1966
National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada unveils major retrospective exhibition of celebrated Canadian photographer, Geoffrey James

Ottawa - May 28, 2008

Utopia/Dystopia contrasts ideal society with a world gone awry

From May 30 to October 19, 2008, The National Gallery of Canada (NGC) will display its first major retrospective of the work of one of Canada’s most celebrated contemporary, landscape photographers, Geoffrey James. Presented by Pratt & Whitney Canada, the exhibition comprises 91 works created between 1987 and 2002. For further information, visit the micro site dedicated to this exhibition at www.gallery.ca/james.

Over Three Decades of Landscape Photography
Recognized as one of Canada’s most eloquent interpreters of landscape, Geoffrey James has been making photographs since the early 1970s. His first photographs were images of gardens and expressed classical notions of beauty as they revealed the geometry and underlying structures of the formal garden. These small (8.5 cm x 26.5 cm) panoramic photographs evoke a quiet passion for the great landscape schemes and natural sanctuaries of the past. In his most recent work, James pays particular attention to way in which nature and culture intersect. While not concerned with “Romantic” notions of “the ruin,” his photographs do suggest a fall from grace.

“A retrospective of this nature gives us the opportunity to view the range of work an artist produces over the course of a career,” said NGC Director, Pierre Théberge, “It also allows us to examine more closely the various themes and patterns that emerge when a representative number of works by the same artist are assembled in one place and at one time.”

The exhibition is organized by Lori Pauli, the National Gallery’s Assistant Curator of Photographs. “I am impressed both by the subtleties of his printmaking and the graphic power of his photographs,” she explained.  “This exhibition demonstrates James’s long-standing preoccupations with the way in which culture and nature intersect and his remarkable contribution to Canadian art.”

Ranging from the idyllic spaces of formal gardens and sylvan parks, to the wastelands of mining and a problematic international border, his photographs explore the planned landscapes of the past to the more unintentional landscapes of the present.

Recurring visual themes come to light in this exhibition: bridges, roads, pathways, trees and ponds and the façades of houses and stores. Works are grouped according to series: the panoramic images of European gardens, photographs of American parks designed by F.L. Olmsted, the Paris, Asbestos, Lethbridge and Toronto series, as well as Running Fence, a project that examines the Mexico/U.S. border fence.

The exhibition, Utopia/Dystopia: the Photographs of Geoffrey James is made possible by through a blend of private and public sector partnership. Loans have been secured from a number of private collections, the artist himself and through the courtesy of a number of prestigious institutions. These include The Canadian Centre of Architecture and the Musée d’Art contemporain in Montreal, the University of Toronto Art Centre, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

“We are honoured to partner with the National Gallery of Canada in our support of excellence in arts and culture across the country,” said Pratt & Whitney Canada Vice President – Communications, Nancy German. “We are pleased to present the exhibition of an outstanding Canadian artist who  touches on important issues like the relationship between people and  the environment.”        

National Gallery of Canada and Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography and the work of Geoffrey James.
The National Gallery of Canada began collecting the work of Geoffrey James with the receipt of a generous gift of three photographs by Belgian collectors, Francis and Evelyn Coutellier in 1988. This was augmented by the acquisition of prints from his Olmsted and Asbestos series by the Gallery’s Photographs Collection and the Department of Contemporary Art. In 1975, the Gallery’s sister institution, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, also began acquiring James’s photographs and now owns 108 of his works.   

Educational Activities
Meet the Artist − Saturday May 31 at 2 pm
In conjunction with the exhibition, Utopia/Dystopia: The Photographs of Geoffrey James, members of the public are invited to meet the artist, Geoffrey James, who will be in conversation with Robert Enright, Senior Contributing Editor of Border Crossings, and University Research Professor in Art Theory and Criticism at the University of Guelph. This will take place in the NGC’s Lecture Hall. Included with Gallery admission.

A catalogue in English and French accompanies this exhibition. It reveals the wide range of James’s photographic investigations and includes 87 large plates and more than 50 other illustrations, which act as a powerful introduction to the themes of utopia and dystopia that underpin all of Geoffrey James’ work. Essays by the exhibition organizer, Lori Pauli, art historian Stephen Bann and curator Britt Salvesen, along with a detailed illustrated chronology of the artist come with these stunning reproductions. Available at a cost of $60.00 CDN, it is on sale at the National Gallery of Canada Bookstore or online at www.shopngc.ca, the NGC’s online store.

Admission and NGC hours
Tickets are now on sale at $9 for adults, $7 for seniors and full-time students, $4 for youths aged 12 to 19 years, and $18 for families (two adults and three children). Admission is free of charge for children under 12 and for Friends of the Gallery. This includes admission to the NGC Collection. Tickets are available by telephone at 613-998-8888 or 1-888-541-8888 and at http://www.shopngc.ca/.

Until September 30, the NGC is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays until 8 p.m.

About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art in the world. In addition, it has pre-eminent collections of Inuit, Western and European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, American and Asian Art as well as drawings and photography. Created in 1880, it is among the oldest of Canada’s national, cultural institutions. As part of its mandate to make Canadian art accessible across the country, the NGC has one of the largest touring art exhibition programs in North America. For more information, visit http://www.gallery.ca/.

About Pratt & Whitney Canada
Pratt & Whitney Canada, based in Longueuil, Que., is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft engines powering business, general aviation and regional aircraft and helicopters. The company also manufactures auxiliary power units and industrial gas turbines. Pratt & Whitney Canada is a United Technologies company based in Hartford, Conn., USA, which is a diversified company providing high technology products and services to the global aerospace and building industries.

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For more information, please contact:

Josée-Britanie Mallet
Senior Media and Public Relations Officer
National Gallery of Canada

Claire Schofield
Manager, Communications and Public Relations
National Gallery of Canada