“Slices Of Time: California Landscapes 1860–1880, 1960–1980,”

Oakland Museum of California

In her introductory essay to “Slices of Time: California Landscapes 1860–1880, 1960–1980,” curator Therese Heyman appropriately refers to nature as California photography’s “most powerful and typical genre.” “Slices of Time . . .” concerns itself with a particular relationship within this tradition: the comparison to be drawn between the mammoth-plate explorer/photographers of the 19th century (e.g. Thomas Houseworth, Eadweard Muybridge, A.J. Russell, Carleton Watkins, A.W. Ericson, and Charles L. Weed) and the late-20th-century photographers who, in Heyman’s words, have returned to “the objective, neutral and evidently ‘real.’”

The comparison is a provocative one. Much that has been produced in the last decade, particularly by the so-called “New Topographics” photographers (Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal, and Stephen Shore, for example), manifests a formalism analogous to the clarity

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