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Indiana University Art Museum

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Midwest Landscape #29

Art Sinsabaugh, Midwest Landscape #29 (1961)

Trained at Chicago's famed Institute of Design, Art Sinsabaugh (1924–1983) made his artistic breakthrough in the early 1960s with a giant "banquet" camera that produced large 12 x 20-inch negatives. He developed a unique method wherein he cropped the edges of these extra-large prints, sometimes dramatically, to emphasize the expansive horizons he saw in nature. He was a landscape photographer in the broadest sense: he photographed the spaces—both rural and urban—that we inhabit.

Sinsabaugh developed sophisticated picture-making skills combined with an innate sensitivity to the visual possibilities of the American landscape. His cool, clear aesthetic has been described as a mixture of the great expansive vision of nineteenth-century landscape photographers with mid-twentieth-century formalism.

Midwest Landscape #29 is one photograph from a large series, in which Sinsabaugh sought to create an all-encompassing "census" of the American landscape—the rural farms of the Midwest, the urban cityscapes of Chicago and Baltimore, the mountains and resorts of New England, and the barren deserts of the Southwest. Rather than focusing on individual people and places, Sinsabaugh captured the rhythms of human life and our relationship to the land through the formal elements—the shapes and sometimes the silhouettes of buildings, silos, bridges, highways, homes, skyscrapers, trees, and gravestones—that punctuate our horizons. Taken as a whole, Sinsabaugh's remarkable photographs capture a richly nuanced sense of place and the ever-changing face of the American environment.

Sinsabaugh's photographs possess a remarkable quality of timeless beauty, while at the same time documenting a specific time and place. His straightforward, detached viewpoint and inclusion of "ordinary" scenes foreshadowed the environmental concerns of the "New Topographic" photographers of the 1970s.

The Art Sinsabaugh Archive is located at the Indiana University Art Museum.