Marking a quarter century in the art business, Art Projects International founder and director Jung Lee Sanders is presenting a stimulating group show that explores the iconography of landscape. By including the work of 12 artists who vary in their formal interpretations, “Blurred Horizons: Contemporary Landscapes, Real and Imagined” replicates the multifarious richness of nature in a gallery setting.

The 25th anniversary exhibition at the Tribeca gallery includes works by: Catherine Opie, Clifford Ross, Filipe Rocha da Silva, Graham Nickson, Il Lee, James Turrell, Mary Heilmann, Myong Hi Kim, Richard Tsao, Seokmin Ko, Yojiro Imasaka,  and Zhang Jian-Jun.

As art historian and guest curator Kathryn Calley Galitz explains in an accompanying essay, the “Blurred Horizons” of the show’s title refers to the tendency in contemporary landscape art to muddy the divide between realism and abstraction. In her essay, Galitz draws upon the research of the art historian Robert Rosenblum, who in 1975’s “Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition” expounded on the connection between the Romantic sublime of the 19th century and Abstract Expressionism. A similarly emotive nature can be seen in the landscape imagery of artists practicing today, as evidenced by a number of the works on view in Tribeca.

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Installation view of "Blurred Horizons: Contemporary Landscapes, Real and Imagined" at Art Projects International, New York, 2018. left-right: James Turrell, "Aten Reign" (2015), Richard Tsao, "Valley High, Valley Low" (2006), Clifford Ross, "Hurricane LV" (2009), and Mary Heilmann, “Right" (2015). Courtesy of Art Projects International, New York.

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On entering the gallery one of the first images the visitor encounters, a startlingly beautiful photograph by Catherine Opie, sums up the evocative possibilities of landscape abstraction. With its out-of-focus planes of white and grey, Untitled # 3 (2012) resembles a snow-covered or mist-filled scene. A brown and black mass on the left appears to be some kind of physical element (perhaps a tree?), but the blurriness of the large photographic print disallows any definitive identification of thing or place. This haziness prompts the viewer to squint to make sense of the image and, by way of this disorientating visual effect, Opie recreates the magical, enveloping sensation of a fog-filled landscape.

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“Untitled #3" by Catherine Opie, 2012. Limited-edition pigment print, 40 x 60 inches. "Blurred Horizons: Contemporary Landscapes, Real and Imagined" at Art Projects International, New York, 2018. Courtesy of Art Projects International, New York.

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While it is possible to become blissfully lost in the blur of Untitled # 3, there are a number of other landscapes worthy of extended viewing in “Blurred Horizons.” The show’s thoughtful installation highlights parallels and contrasts, establishing a compelling dialogue between the included artworks. In this first room the muted colors of the Opie correlate with the black and white photographs of Yojiro Imasaka and Clifford Ross, and are punctuated by the deep blues of a Mary Heilmann painting and a James Turrell print. Other accents are provided by the pink, earthy hues and textural surfaces of Richard Tsao’s mixed media Valley High Valley Low (2006), and Filipe Rocha da Silva’s Fertility Landscape II (2015), a vibrant “drawing” created with wool thread.

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"Fertility Landscape II" by Filipe Rocha da Silva, 2015. Wool on textile, 47 1/4 x 63 3/8 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Art Projects International, New York.

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The side-by-side hanging of Ross’s Hurricane LV (2009), from his “Hurricane Wave” series, and Heilmann’s Right (2005) brings together two artists with connections to the Hamptons and its influential coastal scenery. Ross’s wavescapes were installed at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill last year as part of the museum’s Platform program, and Heilmann is currently the subject of a show at the Dan Flavin Art Institute in Bridgehampton. The pairing also highlights the different ways of representing the sublimity of the surrounding world, whether through a large representational closeup of an immense wave, or by way of the small-scale, quiet abstraction of a deep blue rectangle framed by fields of white.

Hanging directly across from these works, Il Lee’s BL-087 (2006) brings together both their monochrome/blue coloring and movement/stillness in a single transfixing image. Lee applies sweeping lines of blue ink on the canvas with, confoundingly, a ballpoint pen. The multiplicity of fine lines builds up to create a vast section that is densely colored and which—with a clear, curving demarcation between the blue ink and the horizon of the canvas—calls to mind a mountaintop.

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"BL-087" by Il Lee, 2006. Ballpoint ink on canvas, 48 x 65 inches."Blurred Horizons: Contemporary Landscapes, Real and Imagined" at Art Projects International, New York, 2018. Courtesy of Art Projects International, New York.

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In the lower section of the canvas, dancing lines of ink escape this mountain of pigment’s apparent solidity of form, as if to assert the artist’s hand in this view of “nature.” Recalling the gestural brushstrokes of the Abstract Expressionists, Lee’s energetic application of ballpoint ink captures the absorbing, physical act of the artist. And, like da Silva’s wool drawing, which is based on traditional Portuguese weaving practice, BL-087 astounds both as an evocation of landscape and by the precision of technique required for its construction.

There are two other equally impressive Il Lee compositions in the gallery’s third exhibition space, but before reaching that room the viewer enters a transitional space where vibrant watercolor landscapes by Graham Nickson are presented alongside the cool blue oil pastel of Myong Hi Kim’s Landscape NE (2007). Here Kim plays with scale and the viewer’s expectations, composing a vast sky on a small, framed chalkboard. An equally captivating vista of a cloud-filled sky that similarly nudges the viewer hangs opposite.

The Square 14 (2011) by Seokmin Ko is a photograph of the exterior of a modern building with the sky reflected in its mirror-like façade. Interrupting the gridded architectural pattern is a hand that appears at the edge of one of the windows. This humorous, all-too-human intervention in the world and the revealing, disrupting nature of reflection are aspects that Ko explores in his compelling multi-year series, “The Square.” Try to sneak a peek into the gallery office adjacent to this (rather appropriately, roughly square-shaped) space, where two other photographs from the series are displayed. Both these images include the motif common to a number of these works: a mirror is held in a landscape by two bodiless hands.

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"The Square 14" by Seokmin Ko, 2011. Limited-edition archival pigment print, 20 x 36 ½ inches. Courtesy of Art Projects International, New York.

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The gallery’s third space features works that engage with the timelessness of the natural landscape. Ink Garden of Re-Creation (2002) by Zhang Jian-Jun, for instance, is a sculpture based on a traditional Chinese Scholars’ rock. But Zhang playfully asserts the continuing relevance of such natural elements in contemporary culture by modeling the rock in ink. When installed as part of the fourth Shanghai Biennale, water cascaded over the sculpture, eventually turning the reservoir at its base into an inky black pool. The elemental facets of nature are further celebrated in such a distinctly modern way in an accompanying drawing, Ink Rock 1 (2002): by burning part of this ink representation of the Scholars’ rock, Zhang recreates anew the textural earthiness of nature.

By contrast, a timeless quality in the photographs of Yojiro Imasaka is achieved in part by the artist himself stepping back in time. Instead of a digital camera, Imasaka used 2¼-inch film for the image, Sea, located in the gallery's entry space, and for the two photos in this third space he used a vintage, large-format Deardorff camera. In so doing, he imbues the prints with texture and, like Zhang, replicates the patterns of landscape visually. In Grand Canyon (2013), the almost washed-out greyness of the scene conjures the notion that this is an old family photograph rescued from a box in the attic.

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Yojiro Imasaka, “Werra" (2015, limited-edition chromogenic print, 30 x 40 inches) and "Grand Canyon" (2013, limited-edition gelatin silver print, 30 x 40 inches) in "Blurred Horizons: Contemporary Landscapes, Real and Imagined" at Art Projects International, New York, 2018. Courtesy of Art Projects International, New York.

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By zooming in on a section of canyon, Imasaka captures both the graininess that characterizes such prints and the roughness of the Grand Canyon’s rock strata. The inclusion of a small hut in the composition’s lower right only serves to enhance the monumentality of—and to highlight the insignificance of humanity within—this vast geologic landscape.

Human presence is absent from Imasaka’s Werra (2015). In its representation of the lush vegetation around the Werra River in Germany, the vividly colored print makes an enlivening side-by-side display with the monochrome grayness of Grand Canyon. Here, blurring created by a long exposure magically arrests the movement of the wind-blown trees. Like the other works on display in this stimulating and often transfixing exhibition, Werra reveals the ceaseless human desire to capture the sublimity of nature.

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BASIC FACTS:Blurred Horizons: Contemporary Landscapes, Real and Imagined” is on view January 18 to March 31, 2018 at Art Projects International, 434 Greenwich Street, Ground Floor, New York, NY 10013. www.artprojects.com

A Walkthrough and Conversation with Kathryn Calley Galitz is scheduled at the gallery on Saturday, February 24, at 4 p.m. Space is limited; RSVP flynn@artprojects.com 

02/8/18 EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this review incorrectly listed Kathryn Calley Galitz as "guest co-curator." Galitz was the guest curator of the exhibition.

In addition, the review incorrectly listed 35mm film as the medium for one of the works by Yojiro Imasaka. The artist used 2¼-inch film for the work in question.

The review also incorrectly situated a small hut in the lower left of the composition in Grand Canyon (2013). The small hut is in the lower right of the composition.

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