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Contemporary Photographic Practice and the Archive

June 11, 2013 – August 4, 2013

This exhibition was created in cooperation with the Lakes Were Rivers collective, an Austin-based group of artists working in photography and video. Members of the collective created a body of work influenced in some way by the Ransom Center—its space, its purpose, its collections. Approximately 50 new works are displayed alongside Ransom Center collection materials chosen by the artists. The pairings highlight how archives and cultural collections stimulate new ideas and creative acts.

The 11 artists in the Lakes Were Rivers collective focused on the process of discovery, on moments when the unexpected occurred and an unanticipated relationship between the Ransom Center collections and the artist's own work became apparent. Photographic concepts of material, time, and illusion shaped their encounters with the collections.

For example, Jason Reed discovered a remarkable kinship between his photographs of the Texas-Mexico border and those taken by W. D. Smithers nearly a century ago. Mike Osborne was intrigued by photographic surveys of rivers becoming lakes, directly linking the collective's name to material in the archive. Barry Stone saw parallels between his practice of purposefully introducing glitches in digital image data and earlier technical photographic experiments by Alvin Langdon Coburn and others. Susan Scafati Shahan responded to textures and structure in the archive, and Anna Krachey was captivated by degrees of translucency and opacity.

Items from the Ransom Center's collection represented in the exhibition include photographs by Ansel Adams and Man Ray, manuscripts from the Herschel family papers and the E. E. Cummings archive, William Blake's Songs of Innocence, an embellished Maurice Ravel score, and props from the Robert De Niro collection.

The Lakes Were Rivers artists are: Leigh Brodie, Elizabeth Chiles, Anna Krachey, Jessica Mallios, Sarah Murphy, Mike Osborne, Jason Reed, Ben Ruggiero, Adam Schreiber, Susan Scafati Shahan, and Barry Stone. The collective takes its name from the fact that all the lakes in Texas save one were made from rivers.