EDWARD BURTYNSKY at Nicholas Metivier Gallery (451 King West), to November 24. 416-205-9000. Rating: NNNN
Ed Burtynsky addresses landscape as architecture at the exact spot architecture is cut directly out of the landscape. In this show he focuses on stone quarries in Portugal, Italy and Vermont.
His muscular talent for portraying the extent of our reliance on and incursions into the natural world is, as always, dazzling.
These are photographs large enough to engulf you. The eye, unmoored from any familiar reference point, is forced to struggle to adjust. Burtynsky often takes us to sites we would not normally see, and they often challenge the imagination. In these photos, the massive scale becomes clear as you take in layer after rectilinear layer of quarried rock telescoping downwards for hundreds of metres.
Other panoramic photos offer a sweeping view of mountains of stone slowly deconstructing into something resembling moulting pyramids - natural forms that are being carved away by ineluctable mechanical forces.
You'd think it would be difficult to find or impose a sense of visual cohesion when dealing with industry on this scale. Yet Burtynsky's highly disciplined eye pulls the pleasing geometries out of what could easily be visually incoherent, allowing myriad smaller details to fall into place. Cranes, tractors and rubble never looked so beautiful.
Part of the fascination comes from seeing how these massive geometric pits could almost form the negative space left by a building lifted directly out of the mountainside. In a way, they are truly inverted construction sites.
Making art from the quarries that produce the raw material for both art and our cities completes a pleasing loop. It also pushes us to ruminate on our symbiotic and often problematic relationship with the natural world.