A single generic description would serve for all the pictures in this exhibition: The leafless trunks of burnt-over timber are shown against a backdrop of snow-covered hills. But within the parameters of this simple formula David Nadel works distinct changes, much like a composer writing variations on a theme.
For instance, “Burn #344” is dense with trees, as naked and straight as the masts of sailing ships; they could be the fine strokes of a Japanese artist’s brush. The density, however, isn’t uniform, so the texture of the image varies from area to area. The overall uniformity is also broken up by the irregular ridges of the hills that make up the landscape. Nadel uses a 4-by-5-inch view camera to record each of the trees with great clarity, and Telephoto lenses that have the effect of compressing the distant planes so that the image appears two dimensional: It is about design, not narrative.
Because the trees in “Burn #210” are quite sparse, incidental outcroppings of rock have an important part in the composition. The camera isn’t as elevated in “Burn #121,” and is closer to the nearest trees, so there are greater differences in the widths of the trunks. On closer inspection, it turns out the picture isn’t black and white as it first appears; there is a tan patch on one of the trunks where the bark has fallen off and exposed the wood. By shooting in color, Mr. Nadel gets richer tonalities and occasional surprises-in “Burn #352” a single fir tree is a presence in green.
Review by William Meyers
Swept by wildfires years ago, the northwestern Montana forests Nadel photographs are little more than blackened trunks, straight as telephone poles and stark naked against the snow. Nadel works with a large-format view camera, not unlike the equipment the pioneering Western landscape photographers used, so his pictures are astonishingly detailed but often flattened out. The snow turns the landscapes virtually black and white, like drypoint etchings; what little color remains-bits of green new growth, red branches against a charred trunk-comes as a pleasant shock. From a distance, the topography looks hairy and anatomical, full of fleshy folds and scars, a body still in shock. Through March 10.
Review by Vince Aletti