Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy - Hoover Dam Triptych

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Mark Klett , b. Sep 9, 1952

Hoover Dam Triptych


Medium and Support: gelatin silver prints (triptych)
Credit Line: museum purchase
Accession Number: 1995.21.1-3


Constructed in the 1930s during the height of the Depression, the Hoover Dam, located southeast of Las Vegas, is a celebrated landmark of American optimism and technological accomplishment. Thousands of unemployed people relocated to Nevada with the hope of working on this project. Over the course of its construction, 21,000 men (5,000 at any one time) worked in dangerous and inadequate conditions. Some suffered from heat stroke, dehydration, and carbon monoxide poisoning, others lost their lives, still others were relegated to racially segregated construction sites. Upon completion in 1935, the Hoover Dam was touted as a symbol of modern engineering genius that provided electricity to three states, irrigated farms across the dessert, and pooled water to create Lake Mead, a 110-mile long manmade lake. Coined the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” countless Americans make a pilgrimage to the dam each year.

Trained as a geologist, photographer Mark Klett explores the ongoing conflict of man versus nature. From 1977 to 1982 he was chief photographer of The Rephotographic Survey Project, for which he rephotographed classic views of such nineteenth century photographers Timothy O’Sullivan and Edweard Muybridge from the same vantage point and with the same equipment. Hoover Dam Triptych is one such examination of a site’s history and its present condition. The triptych is an updated visual record of the physical man-made changes. Recording the changes in the landscape, the triptych addresses the ongoing economic and environmental impact of the dam itself.

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