Edward Burtynsky: Rare Earth

May 11 - June 8, 2024





Nicholas Metivier Gallery is thrilled to announce Rare Earth, an exhibition of new photographs by Edward Burtynsky on view from May 11th through June 8th. There will be an opening reception on Saturday, May 11th with the artist from 1-3PM.

Following Burtynsky’s acclaimed retrospective, BURTYNSKY: Extraction/Abstraction, at Saatchi Gallery in London, UK, Rare Earth celebrates this major milestone in Burtynsky’s 40+ career with newly released photographs from projects completed in recent years.

The selection of new works from around the globe contemplates the intersection of nature and industry, capturing both the beauty as well as the environmental consequences of human industrial activities. The specific themes examined are the receding glaciers in Coast Mountains, British Columbia; soil erosion in Türkiye; rare earth mining at MP Materials in California, and coal mining at the Ravensworth Mine in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales, in Australia. 

As a special component to the exhibition, Burtynsky has released new photographs of glacial runoff in Iceland. Originally taken in 2012 for his groundbreaking series and internationally touring exhibition, Water (2013), these stunning, abstract images have never been seen before. 

At the centre of this exhibition are Burtynsky’s spectacular Coast Mountains photographs. Shooting from a helicopter, Burtynsky captures the pristine grandeur of the mountains while simultaneously lamenting the issue of glacier retreat which has been accelerated by global warming. The sublime qualities of these photographs draw parallels with Ansel Adams whose work has been shown in curatorial context with Burtynskys’, including at the McMichael Collection of Canadian Art.

"In this work I am to shed light upon the interface between man and nature. I’m interested in exploitation (not necessarily in a negative sense)... My loose position is that our methods have alienated us from our environment and we must be careful with our treatment of it. I also find beauty in the wasteland." - Excerpt from Edward Burtynsky’s journal dated October 3, 1983. On display at Saatchi Gallery in London, UK

Mining, a major through-line in Burtynsky’s practice, is represented in Rare Earth with two sites that were chosen for their size and specialised practices. The Kooragang Coal Terminal in New South Wales, Australia is the largest coal terminal in the world, with most of its exports shipped offshore to China. MP Materials in California is the largest rare earth facility in North America. The term ‘rare earth’ refers to any of the 17 scarce chemical elements being mined to make various new technologies possible, such as electric cars, headphones and solar panels. These elements, and the techniques we use to acquire them, have been an interest of Burtynsky’s since the 1980s.