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Joe Deal, American Landscape Photographer and Educator, Dies at Age 62

The Center for Creative Photography, which in 2009 became home to the Joe Deal Archive, is saddened to report Deal’s death on Friday, June 18, 2010. Joe Deal defined his artistic career with black‐and‐white photographs of the American landscape, which were both thoughtfully conceived and beautifully presented. One of ten photographers included in the renowned 1975 George Eastman House exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man‐Altered Landscape, Deal’s photography helped define how artists presented the built environment through the lens. His additional contributions to the field, as an educator and academic administrator, extended the reach of his influence.

Joe Deal was born in Topeka, Kansas, and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Design from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1970. His photographic studies began at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque with Van Deren Coke, where he graduated with a Master of Arts degree in Photography (1974) and continued with a Master of Fine Arts in Photography in 1978.

Preceding both periods of study in New Mexico, Deal worked at the George Eastman House, in Rochester, New York. It was there that Deal met William Jenkins, then assistant curator, and as the two men became friends they began a conversation that would ultimately lead to the pivotal 1975 exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man‐Altered Landscape.

Deal’s key role as one of ten photographers in the New Topographics exhibition, with his 18 untitled views of recently built homes situated within the Albuquerque desert landscape, is well established. However, his crucial role as advisor to curator William Jenkins and contribution to the exhibition and catalogue designs, has been recently underscored with newly published research on the 1975 exhibition. The New Topographics exhibition has been re‐created by Alison Nordström, Ph.D., curator at George Eastman House, and Britt Salvesen, Ph.D., formerly director and chief curator at the Center for Creative Photography and now Department Head and Curator of the Wallis Annenberg Department of Photography at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibition, already shown at four American museums, will open at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on July 17 and will be on view through October 3, 2010, before a multi‐venue European tour.

Since the 1975 New Topographics exhibition, Deal’s photographs have appeared in numerous exhibitions throughout the U.S., in Europe, and in Asia. In 1992 a major one‐person exhibition of his work at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery was accompanied by a book, Joe Deal: Southern California Photographs, 1976–86. In 1984 Deal was commissioned by the J. Paul Getty Trust to photograph the site and construction of the new J. Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles. The Getty Museum exhibited photographs from this project in 1998 and published the work as Between Nature and Culture (1999).

The artist's recent series, West and West: Reimagining the Great Plains has been shown in Providence, Rhode Island, and in New York City and is currently on view at the Center for Creative Photography, through August 1, 2010. A monograph of the same title published by the Center for American Studies accompanies this exhibition.

In addition to his artistic production, Deal has been an influential educator and academic, having taught at the Rhode Island School of Design, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of California at Riverside. From 1999 to 2005 he served as Provost at RISD, and prior to that was Dean of the School of Art at Washington University (1989–1999).

Deal’s artistic production was recognized by two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships (in 1977 and 1980) and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1983. His work is found in private
and public collections including International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Britt Salvesen, Ph.D, formerly the Center’s director and chief curator, worked with Deal to bring his archive to the institution in 2009. A collection of photographic prints that surveys his career, as well as archival materials that document his work as photographer and instructor, join the archives of other 20th century masters including Ansel Adams, Harry Callahan, Louise Dahl‐Wolfe, Robert Heinecken, W. Eugene Smith, Edward Weston, and Garry Winogrand. Salvesen said, "Joe Deal was both intellectual and empathetic. His respect for the natural world contained a respect for those who had granted it consideration before him. Thinking through photography, he has enriched the legacy of American art and culture."

Commenting on the process of compiling Deal’s work for placement at the Center, his longtime gallery representative Robert Mann said, "I find it particularly gratifying that this project was accomplished with the Center's participation and with the help of collectors that truly appreciate the importance of this significant artist." He continued, "The Center could not be a more appropriate and appreciative destination for Joe's archive."

Release date: 
Tuesday, June 22, 2010