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Ed Burtynsky: Oil Boom

Edward Burtynsky Highway #1, Los Angeles, California, USA 2003 © Edward Burtynsky Courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery & Hasted Hunt Kraeutler New York

Following a well-received fall debut at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, related showings in Amsterdam and Madrid and the honour of an international book prize, “Edward Burtynsky: Oil” kicked off its much-anticipated Canadian premiere at The Rooms this month. Twelve years in the making, Burtynsky’s photographic survey on the “life cycle” of oil features more than 50 large-scale prints that address the international manufacturing, transportation and use of this key commodity, as well as its impacts on our recreation time and urban infrastructure. Even though awareness of the petroleum industry has peaked of late due to the ongoing BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, this exhibition demonstrates the central role that oil has played for decades in our daily lives, its consequences and concerns hidden in plain sight until someone comes along to reframe and highlight them for us. (Burtynsky’s own life is intimately intertwined with these factors; long before the artist set out to photograph NASCAR meets and superhighway ramps, his father worked on an automobile production line in a St. Catharine’s General Motors plant.) Accompanied by an extensive publication, as well as a Rooms group exhibition on Newfoundland’s shorelines that opens this Thursday, Burtynsky’s project should give many Canadians serious fuel for thought this summer. It will also likely continue to generate discussion in 2011, when it travels to Edmonton, Toronto, London and other locales. (9 Bonaventure Ave, St. John’s NL)

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