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Museum Minute: "Infinity on the Horizon" - Landscape Through an Abstract Lens

When you think of landscape paintings, you probably think of recognizable country scenes, full of trees and rolling hills. But some contemporary artists approach the idea of landscape through an abstract lens. The new exhibition “Infinity on the Horizon,” on view through December 31, draws from the museum’s collection to examine the idea of the horizon line.

Speaking about the landscape of the American Southwest, Georgia O’Keeffe referred to finding “the feeling of infinity on the horizon line or just over the next hill.” In traditional landscapes, the horizon line marks the separation of land or water from sky. It distinguishes between the land beneath us and the expansive “other.”

In this Western tradition, the landscape has served as a stage for human action, occupation, and authority, but many contemporary and Indigenous artists question this perspective. They obscure the horizon line or use elements from nature to create more abstract pictures of it. Matthew Brandt takes photographs of bodies of water, then soaks his prints IN that water to decay the images. Heather McMordie buries the plates for her prints in the soil before printing them on paper. Dorothy Hood uses pigment that dries to resemble sand. Richard Mayhew uses the landscape as a link to his Cherokee, Shinnecock and African American heritage, using unnaturally bright colors and preventing viewers from seeing the borders of the horizon.

These artists and many others in this exhibition transform identifiable elements and visual markers of landscapes. In doing so, they comment on aesthetic, political, social, and ecological concerns affecting the environments around us.

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