Lenscratch – Aline Smithson


by Aline Smithson | October 16, 2022

©Renate Aller, Book Cover for The Space Between Memory and Expectation, published by Kehrer Verlag

Renate Aller’s work whispers in our ears, telling us to look, take a breath, and look again.

German-born photographer Renate Aller is about to open a spectacular solo exhibition, The Space Between Memory and Expectation, at the Brattleboro Museum in Vermont that runs from October 22, 2022 until February 2023. The exhibition is  accompanied by a photobook under the same title, published by Kehrer VerlagThe book has texts by Makeda Best, the Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography at the Harvard Art Museums and Courtney J. Martin, director of the Yale Center for British Art.

Aller has a legacy of creating deeply considered land and seascapes that are elegant portraits of our precious planet. She presents the works at a size that draw the viewer into expansive and luminous environs and then reminds us that the earth is fragile and we need to bear witness to vistas that may not exist in the future.

Events around the exhibition:

December 3, Saturday, 5 p.m. — Artist Conversation: Renate Aller and Arezoo Moseni
January 13, Thursday, 7 p.m. — Artist & Curator Conversation: Renate Aller & Makeda Djata Best

©Renate Aller, Partial room views, solo exhibition, Brattleboro Museum, 10 Vernon St, Brattleboro, VT 05301

Sarah Freeman, Curator writes:

Renate Aller uses large-format photographic installations to create “picture windows” that invite the viewer to enter into an immersive visual environment. Aller offers us images of breathtaking landscapes, and we unquestioningly follow her as she directs our gaze straight on and in. The photographs take us from pale sand dunes to the vastness of the Atlantic ocean—from the majesty of the Alps to the intimacy of a forest floor in Florida. Throughout, we are absorbed by the textures of the landscapes and all that they imply: movement, change, time, and human influence.

Aller’s photographs portray a stillness that belies a state of constant flux and movement of these natural environments—melting and eroding, changing with the seasons and the wind, never the same as they were seconds ago. Aller does not use drone technology for her photos. She is physically present in each location, looking through her camera’s viewfinder, bearing witness—and we see through her eyes. In these photographs, Aller asks us to immerse ourselves in our surroundings, to notice every fissure, stipple, vein, and crag, with the understanding that this moment she has frozen in time has passed, and we will never experience the same landscape again. 

The textures that draw us into the large photographs are made even more palpable in an image of a juniper tree printed on ash wood veneer. The grain of the ash invites the viewer to consider the surface of the piece, its material, and its relationship to the juniper in the photo. Aller celebrates the many gifts juniper trees have given us: Their sap has antibacterial and antifungal properties, it has been used for its healing potential for centuries, and in some cultures its wood is burned as incense. Junipers can easily grow in places where other plants cannot survive, its presence symbolizing hope.

Aller honors the ash tree by using its wood as the surface on which the photograph is printed. Ash is a tree that is dying out throughout the forests of North America. Aller says, “The juniper trees are presented with pigment ink on ash wood veneer in the spirit of reciprocity… By bringing both trees together into one sculptural piece, I am wrapping the ash tree with the resilience of the juniper tree’s spirit.” 

Ideas of reciprocity and interconnectedness also inhabit the site-specific installation Aller has created on the stage space of the exhibit, using rocks borrowed from the West Brattleboro home of artists Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason. The moss and lichen covering the rocks play an important role in keeping forests alive as they filter water, maintain moisture, and offer protection from erosion. The stones serve the same purpose as the landscapes Aller has captured from around the globe. But instead of being frozen in time, this ephemeral installation will change before our eyes, further encouraging us to be awake to the present and to the changes taking place in our natural environments.

In the introduction to his book of essays Art Can Help, photographer Robert Adams writes, “It is the responsibility of artists to pay attention to the world, pleasant or otherwise, and to help us live respectfully in it.” Aller’s work calls attention to the details and the often indescribable forces that connect us to our surroundings—and to each other. Aller’s work whispers in our ears, telling us to look, take a breath, and look again.

©Renate Aller, PLATE 132 |Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile, 2019, PLATE_109 B | German Alps, 2019

The Space Between Memory and Expectation

The interval, the space in between, is about the moments during which apparently nothing happens, but without these moments no change could happen. “The Space between Memory and Expectation” is another way to describe this state of stillness and transition. The apparent “still” nature we romanticize is an ever changing and moving condition with the disappearance of the permafrost being the main cause for landslides.

Entire glaciers disappear and will never return, our main source for drinking water and growing crops.

The silent and continuous erosion trickling from the top of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, via glaciers, tropical forests, sand dunes, icefields of Patagonia, European glaciers into the ocean. Tracing an unbroken line, the eye is guided from one sweeping landscape to the next without doubting their separateness in location and origin. I create an immersive room experience for the viewer and show the interconnectedness of distant environments, presenting the familiar and the known in an intimate way, relating to parallel realities from different locations. Intentionally paired images for each installation, forming an immersive panorama showing the interdependence of distant environments, opening up conversations between the different political, emotional, and actual landscapes in which we live. – Renate Aller

©Renate Aller, PLATE 118 | Grey Glacier, Patagonia, Chile, 2019

Born in Germany, Renate Aller lives and works in New York. Her most recent project and book “The Space Between Memory and Expectation” will be on view as a solo exhibition at the Brattleboro Museum, VT from October 2022 – February 2023. This project as well as “Mountain Interval” , “Ocean and Desert”, “dicotyledon” and the long term project “Oceanscapes – One View – Ten Years” are supporting the artist’s investigation in the context of our current socio-political awareness. Her project and book “side walk 6’ apart in NYC” was on view at the New-York Historical Society Museum from March-August 2022.

Her works are in the collections of corporate institutions, private collectors, and museums, including Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe, N.M., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Yale University Art Gallery, CT, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY, New Britain Museum of American Art, CT, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany, Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, WI Musée des beaux-arts Le Locle, Switzerland, The New York Historical Society Museum, NYC and Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, NY

©Renate Aller, PLATE 106 |German Alps, 2019

©Renate Aller, PLATE 73 | Atlantic Ocean, USA, 2018

©Renate Aller, PLATE 100 |Kā Roimata ō Hine Hukatere, NZ, 2017

PLATE 126 Grey Glacier, Patagonia, Chile, 2019

©Renate Aller, PLATE 75 | Atlantic Ocean, 2020

©Renate Aller, PLATE 185 | Everest Region, Nepal, 2016

©Renate Aller, PLATE 129 | Grey Glacier, Patagonia, Chile, 2019

©Renate Aller, PLATE 81 |Great Sand Dunes, USA, 2013

©Renate Aller, PLATE 104 | Glacier German Alps, 2019

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