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TO SEPT. 19
In the catalog that accompanies Edward Burtynsky’s exhibition, the photographer explains that, growing up 20 miles northwest of Buffalo, he arrived a century too late to experience nature that was “pristine” or “sublime.” So when Burtynsky became a professional photographer, he gravitated toward heavy-industrial settings in the United States and his native Canada. Oil Fields #1, Belridge, California rips a page from the works of Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth in documenting a seemingly endless sweep of “nodding-donkey” oil rigs in the desert. Oil Refineries #27, Oakville, Ontario includes such a warren of silver-colored piping that only one or two small pieces of blue machinery remind the viewer that the picture is actually in color, not black and white. The show’s other images illustrate massive stone-quarrying operations, gigantic piles of used tires (Oxford Tire Pile #8, Westley, California is pictured), and rivers of ochre-colored nickel tailings creeping through the muddy loam of Ontario. Though Burtynsky’s photos document obvious indignities to the land, they come off as surprisingly nonjudgmental: Shipbreakingan enterprise so dangerous that a 1998 exposé on the industry in Maryland won the Baltimore Sun a Pulitzer Prizeemerges from Burtynsky’s lens framed by blue skies and with a distinctly rosy glow. The artist’s personal views, however, seem to be far more opaque. The show is on view from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, to Friday, Sept. 19, at the Embassy of Canada, 501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Free. (202) 682-7727. (Louis Jacobson)