Accommodating Nature: The Photographs of Frank Gohlke

November 27, 2008 — March 3, 2009

Smithsonian American Art Museum (8th and G Streets, NW)
A photograph of a grain elevator in a lightning storm.

Frank Gohlke, Grain elevator and lightning flash, Lamesa, Texas, 1975, gelatin silver print © 1975 Frank Gohlke. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

For more than 30 years, Frank Gohlke (b. 1942), a leading figure in American landscape photography, has explored the ways Americans build their lives in a natural world that rarely fits within a traditional pastoral ideal. This retrospective exhibition, which captures Gohlke's longstanding fascination with nature's proclivities for growth, destruction and unexpected change, features 79 photographs—both black-and-white and color prints—spanning the artist's career from the early 1970s through 2004. Rather than celebrating uninhabited landscapes or avoiding evidence of human intrusions, Gohlke's photographs reflect how people interact with an environment that can never be fully controlled. Whether photographing his hometown of Wichita Falls, Texas; the grain elevators that punctuate the vast spaces of the Midwest; the effect of the 1980 volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington; or the neighborhoods of Queens, NY, Gohlke deftly captures the tension between humanity and the natural world, exploring how people adapt to the forces of nature both great and small, even within the confines of their own backyards. The exhibition was organized by John Rohrbach, senior curator of photographs at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas; Toby Jurovics, curator for photography, is the coordinating curator in Washington.


Accommodating Nature: The Photographs of Frank Gohlke is organized by the Amon Carter Museum and is made possible in part by generous support from the Perkins-Prothro Foundation, Exelon Power and the Vin and Caren Prothro Foundation.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum wishes to express its thanks to Charles and Judith Moore and Mark Schwartz and Bettina Katz for their support the exhibition's presentation in Washington, D.C. The Bernie Stadiem Endowment Fund provided additional support for the exhibition.