Grande Dixence, Val de Dix, Switzerland, August 2, 1993
Christopher Williams (American, born 1956)
Gelatin silver print
Image: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.) each
Frame: 64.5 x 74.6 cm (25 3/8 x 29 3/8 in.) each
Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society, Pamela and Arthur Sanders and The Carol and Arthur Goldberg Collection Gifts, 2006
Not on view
This work is one of the highlights of Williams's decade-long project For Example: Die Welt ist Schön, whose subtitle (in English, The World Is Beautiful) refers to a seminal 1928 book by Albert Renger-Patzsch which used the camera's powers of precision to describe a harmonious world of nature and technology intertwined. Like his mentors Michael Asher and Douglas Huebler, with whom he studied at CalArts in the early 1980s, Williams is a master of subtle displacements in the existing order of things. Each individual work in For Example: Die Welt ist Schön (often made up of multiple views) revisits and comments on a particular photographic genre or tradition. The Grande Dixence suite refers to the muscular landscapes of early-twentieth-century American photography, such as Margaret Bourke-White's iconic 1936 image of the Hoover Dam. The work also serves as a curtain raiser for Williams's retrospective look at the last century, an ode to the electricity and energy-through the figure of the dam-that fueled the machine age and its utopian aspirations. While possessed of a cool, almost European detachment, Williams orchestrates the viewer's expectations and responses by invoking the epic sweep of industrial photography from an earlier era, with its optimistic eye for future use-only to detour into a slow, circular, almost elegiac progression around a site now teeming with sightseers and Sunday hikers along the "boulevard" of the dam's ridge.