Editor’s Miscellany: Indoor Landscapes

By Kyle Hoepner

If all the scenery available outside this time of year isn’t enough for you, you may want to spend some of your indoor minutes visiting Composite Landscapes: Photomontage and Landscape Architecture, an exhibition currently hosted in the Hostetter Gallery at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Charles Waldheim, the Gardner’s Ruettgers Consulting Curator of Landscape, and Assistant Curator Andrea Hansen have put together what they say is the first show of its kind on this side of the Atlantic.

The Composite Landscapes “cover” image, John Stezaker’s MASK XLVI, which includes details from other designers included in the exhibition. Image from isgm.org

Composite Landscapes explores how the technique of photomontage—cutting and joining existing images to create a composite—and, in recent years, digital forms of photomontage in particular, have become integral to the way contemporary landscape architects design projects.

Superstudio: Cube of Forest on the Golden Gate. Image from moca.org

If you are now imagining a numbing series of walls covered in cut-and-pasted plans, that’s not what you’ll see at all. The images Waldheim and Hansen have put together for the show are generally perspective views or incorporate the horizon in some way; many end up feeling more like constructed contemporary vedute than working documents. Most of the designers clearly conceived these works, with their hand-applied washes, crayon shading, collaged mylar and such, as more than just useful adjuncts for a client presentation. (There are also, sprinkled throughout the show, landscape-related pieces by a few contemporary artists who are not landscape professionals.) These works are intended as items for aesthetic appreciation.

Gary Hilderbrand: Almost Nothing, created for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s  2010 “Modern Views” project. Image from archpaper.com

And, leaving aside the kinds of conceptual and technical issues critic Mark Feeney addresses in a July 4 review in The Boston Globe, we can simply enjoy them as such. In that spirit of easy summer engagement with the natural world, you will no doubt find some pleasures here. Composite Landscapes runs through September 2, 2013.

Composite photographs by Jan Dibbets. At the Gardner you’ll only see the first of these, “Land-Sea, G:83”. But they’re particularly fun in series, so I’m including a few extras here. Images from contemporaryartdaily.com

Landscape architect James Corner created this view for a park project in Helsinki, Finland. Image from design.upenn.edu

Michael van Valkenburgh places an “experimental fish farm” in Paris’s Jardin des Tuileries. Image from architizer.com

Two studies by the late Yves Brunier for the Museumpark in Rotterdam. Images from landscapeurbanism.com (top) and presstletter.com (bottom)

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