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
Credit Line:
Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society, Pamela and Arthur Sanders and The Carol and Arthur Goldberg Collection Gifts, 2006
Accession Number:
  • Description

    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.

  • Provenance

    [David Zwirner, New York]

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History