Los Angeles

Margaret Nielsen

ICA - Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

This retrospective of Margaret Nielsen’s work provided an overview of the myriad tactics and formats she has deployed to interrogate the tradition of American landscape painting, a genre little explored in hip artistic circles these days. Grappling with the legacy of 19th-century “masters” from spiritualists Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Cole to the mystic Albert Pinkham Ryder, Nielsen lifts the sublime veil of Romanticism to reveal the imperialist, masculinist mentality of conquest that destroyed the landscape so lovingly idealized.

A series of Nielsen’s drawings from the ’70s address the incompatibility of the modes of representation deployed to render the landscape comprehensible to the viewer and its supposedly untouched “natural” state. Thus, in Untitled, 1973, Nielsen makes drawings of two snapshots in a photo album; the simulacral waterfall landscape of the first is in the process of

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