“Nature is a great artist. The greatest,” said photographer Brett Weston, who made it his primary subject matter. Drawn from the museum’s collection, this exhibition surveys four decades of his work and debuts more than 40 photographs from the Brett Weston Archive donated to the museum in 2017 by collector Christian Keesee.
Wherever Weston photographed—California, Hawaii, Mexico, or Europe—his way of seeing remained constant, and the resulting images hovered between abstraction and representation. “It seems to me,” this usually laconic man wrote, “that this powerful duality, this combination of the abstract, in the emphasis upon form, and the sense of presence, in the rendering of light and substance, is something only photography can do.” From the 1920s through the 1950s, Weston was a photographer’s photographer, admired for his formalist inventiveness and technical virtuosity, but little known outside the then insular field. Among those he influenced was his father, the eminent photographer Edward Weston. Although still anchored in representation, Brett moved even as a young artist toward boldly graphic, rhythmic compositions that verged on the abstract. His experimental vigor linked him to avant-garde practitioners in Europe and America.
In the 1960s and 1970s, as fine art photography entered the mainstream art world and captured popular imagination, Weston finally gained fame and fortune. His were the lyrical yet formally adventurous nature photographs emulated by thousands of amateurs and professionals. His was the vision that helped shape how many of us see the natural world.