Yancey Richardson is proud to present Ancient Prairies, an exhibition of new photographs by Chicago-based artist Terry Evans. Marking her fourth exhibition at the gallery, Evans expands on her decades-long connection with the prairie as the spiritual center of her work. Through the creation of photographic mosaics of these ecosystems, Evans explores the complexity of the prairie landscape, the element of time in landscape photography and the delicate relationship between nature and humankind.
Since 1978, Evans’s work has been shaped by her inquiry and exploration of the American prairie. From detailed ground-level studies of intricate botanical life to aerial photographs in her series Inhabited Prairie, Evans’s investigations reveal the contradictions, mysteries and beauty of this seemingly mute landscape. The series Ancient Prairies focuses on restored prairies that endure due to human care. Each image comprises dozens of individual photographs of the same site, taken over many days from different perspectives and across varying weather conditions. The resulting images are dynamic studies of place and time, imbued with a Cubist-like sense of visual connections and interruptions, and ultimately forming a cohesive whole conveying the artist’s deeply personal experience of a particular place. For example, Night, April 2020 comprises photographs made each day over the period of a month on evening walks taken while sheltering on her Kansas farm during the early stage of the pandemic. The resulting image presents a patchwork of rectilinear violet hues, punctuated by two moons, a shooting star and the silhouette of her husband, her lone companion, on the distant horizon.
As a complement to the panoramic distance and complexity of the work in Ancient Prairies, on view in the project gallery is a selection from Evans’s series Prairie Specimens. These photographs of century-old botanical specimens were taken in the archives of the Field Museum, Chicago and the Smithsonian Museum between 1999 and 2001. In the series, Evans addresses man’s attempt to understand the natural world through the act of collecting, archiving, cataloguing and studying its inhabitants. The carefully arranged and documented botanical specimens relay the archivist’s passion for the objects while the labels’ calligraphic script and typed notations reveal the passage of time. Echoing the care and intense scrutiny given these specimens by the original collectors and the scientists who have subsequently studied them, Evans presents the objects with the utmost clarity, conveying a tactile and physical quality that offers the viewer something close to Evans’s own experience of seeing them.
A native of Kansas, Terry Evans (b. 1944) has exhibited widely, including solo shows at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Amon Carter Museum, Ft. Worth, and the Field Museum, Chicago. She is a Guggenheim Fellow and a recipient of an Anonymous Was a Woman award. Several books have been published on Evans’s work including Prairie: Images of Ground and Sky, The Inhabited Prairie, Disarming the Prairie and Heartland. Her work is held in major museum collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Modern Art, N.Y., San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, among many others.