Comments/Context: This is Edward Burtynsky's first show at Howard Greenberg Gallery since changing gallery representation, and while Burtynsky's most recent works adorn the large Chelsea walls of partner Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery (review linked below), the Greenberg show is a mini-retrospective of sorts, offering a sampler from the Canadian photographer's entire career, displayed in smaller, more intimate print sizes. Perhaps another way to think about this show is that it provides a succinct introduction to Burtynsky for the vast Greenberg collector database, many of whom might be more accustomed to vintage work.
The selections on view and their sequencing provide a summary view of Burtynsky's fascination with the scale of industrial sites and their upstream and downstream impacts. There are immense Chinese factories, flanked by cargo containers and endless apartment complexes, quarries and mines near railway infrastructure cut directly through steep rocky mountainsides, and oil wells responding to staggering piles of discarded tires and concrete ribbons of intersecting freeway. New aerial images from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico track greasy brown and black oil slicks as they creep across pure expanses of blue and green. And the book alcove contains images from Burtynsky's series on tidal shipbreaking in Bangladesh; the prints are executed in contrasty black and white with rough edges and chance drips, connecting the steel carcasses and towering hull silhouettes to 19th century industrial photography.
Seeing these prints in the smaller sizes, I was reminded of just how powerful many of Burtynsky's works are when printed at more monumental scale; some of the staggering destructive scale of these places is somewhat lost when seen more up close. That said, I think this show does a respectable job of providing a taste of Burtynsky's visual ideas, thoughtfully packaged to fit the constraints of the available wall space and the expectations of the audience.
Collector's POV: The prices for the works in this show are as follows: the 24x28 prints are $6200, the 34x41 prints are $10000, 39x52 prints are $16500, the 48x64 prints are $24000. Burtynsky's photographs have slowly become more available in the secondary markets over the past few years, with prices at auction ranging between roughly $5000 and $48000.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Through December 10th
Howard Greenberg Gallery
41 East 57th Street
New York, NY 10022