The Magic Tree

Here’s something to look forward to in the fast approaching new year. Amsterdam-based The Ravestijn Gallery will start 2016 tremendously with the show named ‘The Magic Tree’ featuring work by Dutch photographer Marie-José Jongerius, opening on the 15th of January. The story of the show starts all the way back in 1999, when Jongerius left for Los Angeles with the mission to photograph writers, actors and directors. With each car ride to a new photoshoot her fascination grew with the relentless attempt by the Americans to control this Californian landscape. For over ten years she has photographed places where human imagination and the force of nature interact, from artificial lakes to the edge of the advancing desert, of which an incredible selection is shown in Amsterdam. Her images of the isolated – sometimes freely in nature, sometimes peeking out of their man-made cages – are both mysterious and highly aesthetic, making ‘The Magic Tree’ a must visit next month.

The Southwestern United States has always been the setting for dreams. Pioneers and prospectors, engineers and industrialists, orange- and oil farmers, filmmakers and photographers: they made the trek west to seek their fortune. A few succeeded, millions stranded prematurely. Every attempt left new marks in this mythical landscape spanning from the Pacific Ocean to the mountain tops of Sierra Nevada down to the Mojave Desert.

Culture versus nature is the topic of the seven large-format prints in ‘The Magic Tree’. In the pruning of the Californian landscape Jongerius uses trees as the mark of this battle. Displaying them as endearing rather than majestic, paying tribute to the resilience of nature. From the trees that lasted through the wrath of a forest fire, to the eucalyptus tree that sits on the edge of a lush green golf course overlooking the sparse desert below. What becomes apparent in these landscapes is the battle between ideals and the reality of the dessert. Import of foreign plant species that demand more water then native species resulted in a landscape that became dependent on man. This is were Jongerius’ images sit, between manmade innovations and the ever expanding desert.

Her photographs are not a simple dialectic of culture versus nature, but rather the interface where we can see something that is neither.

Marie-José Jongerius studied photography at the Instituto Superiore della Photography in Rome (1990-1991), the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague (1992-1996) and finally obtained her MA in Photography at AKV | St .Joost in Breda. She was a trainee at Dana Lixenberg in New York (1995) and did a masterclass with Rineke Dijkstra. Jongerius has exhibited at the Riverside Museum in Los Angeles, Centraal Museum Utrecht, The ADC Gallery New York and the Dutch Fotomuseum in Rotterdam.

The beautiful ‘Edges of the Experiment – The Making of the American Landscape’ (2015) is the latest publication by the photographer. This two-volume book includes historical research into how this landscape came about. Designed by Hans Gremmen and published by Fw: Books, the book was nominated for the book award during Les Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles. Earlier publications of Jongerius include; ‘Sweetwater’ (2001), ‘Lunar Landscapes’ (2012) and ‘Concrete Wilderness’ (2014).

All images courtesy of the artist and The Ravestijn Gallery.

The Ravestijn Gallery is located on Westerdoksdijk 603-A in Amsterdam. Opened Monday to Friday 09:00 until 17:00 and Saturday 12:00 until 17:00.

For more information see here