For the inaugural show at the DeSoto Project, Blue Sky has chosen to exhibit Third View, a rephotographic landscape project that speaks volumes about the general direction of the nonprofit gallery. Third View is a significant photography project, but it's been floating around for several years now. It's hung somewhat haphazardly, which reflects the "everything by committee" policy at Blue Sky, and the work is drastically underserved by being unframed. (This is a perpetual budgetary constraint.) Furthermore, one can't help but make the connection between Blue Sky stalwart Chris Rauschenberg's own rephotographic project (in which he revisits the sites of old Eugène Atget photos), and the current programming, from which Rauschenberg's series takes inspiration. I'm not suggesting any Machiavellian scheme at work here, but it would seem, at minimum, that the exhibition selection committee might be due for a breath of fresh air.
Oh, and as for the work in Third View—it's great. In the 1970s, Mark Klett and a group of photographers set out to "rephotograph" seminal landscape images from the 19th century. With painstaking exactitude, they revisited the canyons, deserts, and waterfalls of the old masters, and created impeccably precise updates of the old photographs.
The goal of Third View was to update those scenes once again, to see how much has changed in the past three decades. So a different band of photographers, led again by Klett, went forth with the same vision, GPS's in hand. When the project is at its most successful—when prints from all three excursions are shown together—it can be breathtaking. But Blue Sky mixes in random shots of local characters with new digital collages that attempt to show the same concept in a different way, in addition to the original triptych format, and in the end, it all feels unnecessarily jumbled.
Blue Sky is one of the most respected photography nonprofits in the country: If I didn't believe in the strength of their mission, or their potential to grow even more relevant to the community at large, I wouldn't care if they showed nothing but second-run landscape exhibitions. But that's not the spirit that's kept them afloat for the past 32 years, and it's not the spirit that's going to win and maintain a very enthusiastic audience.