September 26 — October 01, 2020
Auction begins to close at 2 pm ET
EDWARD BURTYNSKY, R.C.A.
Private Collection, Quebec
Edward Burtynsky’s photography is preoccupied with exploring the impact of human development on the planet, unveiling the frequently dramatic collisions arising from efforts to control or exploit the natural environment. His photographs are the result of meticulous planning and careful composition, frequently employing aerial perspective to both give a sense of planetary scale and to sidestep the bureaucracies on the ground that would seek to keep these landscapes uninterrogated.
Burtynsky’s “Oil” series focuses on the extraction, production, transport, and use of perhaps the most important - and damaging - resource of the contemporary era. "Oil Fields #1," 2002, depicts a vast field of skeletal, rusted oil derricks marching away in the dust. The scene is almost entirely evacuated of human scale, providing a haunting forecast of a scarce future.
Importantly, Burtynsky grounded the “Oil” series in the automobile - the advent of the internal combustion engine, its need for fuel and rubber - as the basis of modern industrial society. Importantly, "Oil Fields #1" is set in California, the perennial destination of the American road trip and the freedom of the Western frontier. The vast, derrick-filled field becomes both origin and destination: the fountainhead of resource extraction and a surreal indictment of the unspoiled frontier at the end of the highway. The photograph is a sublime depiction of the precarious impact of humanity’s demands on the environment, and implicates the viewer in the consequences of consumption.