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The MAN Podcast: Emmet Gowin & Frank Gohlke

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This week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast features artists Emmet Gowin and Frank Gohlke. Their photographs taken after the 1980 eruption of Mount Saint Helens are on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art in the exhibition “American Vesuvius: The Aftermath of Mount Saint Helens by Frank Gohlke and Emmet Gowin.” The show opens Sunday and is on view through June 2.

On May 18, 1980 Mount Saint Helens erupted with a force equivalent to 1,600 of the atomic bombs that decimated Hiroshima, Japan. The eruption killed nearly sixty people and destroyed or damaged over 60,000 acres of wilderness. Ash from the eruption was deposited on at least 11 states. In the months after the eruption, both Gowin and Gohlke traveled to Mount Saint Helens and gained access to the blast zone. Both men expected to photograph the power of the blast, but once their they both found that other components of the Mount Saint Helens story interested them as well.

Gowin first came to prominence in the 1970s with a series of pictures he took of his wife and family in southern Virginia. Later, and notably after his Mount Saint Helens pictures, he would turn his interest to the impact man has had on the American West. Gowin took to the air to photograph man-altered landscapes such as the Hanford Site, a mostly decommissioned nuclear production facility and Cold War test sites in Nevada. He’s been the subject of numerous retrospective exhibitions including in 1990 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Between 2002 and 2004 the Yale University Art Gallery organized “Changing the Earth” an exceptional show that examined Gowin’s interest in the ways Americans have massively changed the land. [Image below, right: Emmet Gowin, Spirit Lake and Mount Saint Helens, 1983.]

Gohlke has long had an intense interest in the American landscape and in the relationship people have with place. His pictures have demonstrated the impact of massive forces on the landscape – he photographed the aftermath of a massively destructive tornado in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1979 and of course Mount Saint Helens – but his work has also examined our presence in quieter landscapes, such as the grain elevators in the upper Midwest. In 2005 the Museum of Modern Art and curator Peter Galassi devoted an exhibition to his Mount Saint Helens photographs.

On this week’s show we discuss:

  • The different reasons each photographer wanted to go to Mount Saint Helens;
  • How they happened to discover the other was also there;
  • How many of the pictures they took veered toward abstraction; and
  • How their experience at Saint Helens led to each photographer becoming interested in how humans were impacting the landscape of the American West.

To download the program to your PC/mobile device or to listen in your browser, click here. Subscribe to The Modern Art Notes Podcast via iTunesSoundCloud or RSS. Stream the program at MANPodcast.com. Also, ‘like’ our Facebook page!

The Modern Art Notes Podcast is an independent production of Modern Art Notes Media. It is edited by Wilson Butterworth. The MAN Podcast is released under this Creative Commons license.

For images of art discussed on this week’s show, please click through to the jump.

Harry Callahan, Horseneck Beach, Massachusetts, c. 1965. Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Emmet Gowin, Mount Saint Helens Area, 1980. Collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington.

Emmet Gowin, Spirit Lake and Mount Saint Helens, 1983.

Emmet Gowin, Braided Streams of the Toutle River West of Mount Saint Helens, 1981.

Emmet Gowin, Debris Flow at the Northern Base of Mount Saint Helens, Looking South, 1983.

Emmet Gowin, Ash from Mount Saint Helens at the Confluence of the Cowlitz and Columbia Rivers, 1984.

Emmet Gowin, Ash Over New Snow, the South Flank of Mount Saint Helens, 1983.

Emmet Gowin, Mount Saint Helens, 1982.

Frank Gohlke, Aerial View, Looking SE at Mount Saint Helens from Approximately Six Miles Away, 1981.

Frank Gohlke, Aerial View, Silt Containment Dam Breached by Mudflow from April, 1982 Eruption, 16 Miles NW of Mt. Saint Helens, Washington, 1982.

Frank Gohlke, Aerial View, Mt. St. Helens, Rim, Crater and Lava Dome, 1982.

Frank Gohlke, Steam and Ash Eruption — from Muddy Creek mudflow, 5.5 Miles SE of Mt. St. Helens, Washington, 1982.

Frank Gohlke, Looking NW across Lahar at Mount St. Helens, 6 miles SE of Mount St. Helens, Washington, 1984. Collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington.

Frank Gohlke, Looking SW across Blowdown toward Valley of South Toutle River, 8 miles NW of Mount St. Helens, Washington, 1982. Collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Frank Gohlke, Inside Mount St. Helens crater, base of lava dome on the left, 1983. Collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Frank Gohlke, Confluence of Pine Creek and Lewis River, thirteen miles southeast of Mount St. Helens, Washington, 1981. Collection of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth.

Frank Gohlke, Confluence of Pine Creek and Lewis River, thirteen miles southeast of Mount St. Helens, Washington, 1982. Collection of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth.

Frank Gohlke, Confluence of Pine Creek and Lewis River, thirteen miles southeast of Mount St. Helens, Washington, 1983. Collection of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth.

Frank Gohlke, Confluence of Pine Creek and Lewis River, thirteen miles southeast of Mount St. Helens, Washington, 1984. Collection of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth.

Frank Gohlke, Confluence of Pine Creek and Lewis River, thirteen miles southeast of Mount St. Helens, Washington, 1990. Collection of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth.

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  1. [...] from the blast region. Download the show, subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, RSS. See images of works discussed on the program. « Friday exhib: Societe Anonyme at YUAG Blog Home Weekend [...]

  2. [...] week we were to listen to a Modern Art Notes Podcast interviewing two artists whose work appears in an exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art in [...]

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