Walter Niedermayr's large, painterly photographs show nature in expansive stretches of land and sky, inhabited by humans and creatures no bigger than ants. In one, miniscule cows graze over miles of rolling green pastureland like a plague of insects. In another, a snowy mountain slope is covered with tiny dots that throw long shadows on the intense whiteness of the snow.
Up close, the dots are people, bursting with activity: skiing, falling, resting, chatting. The intensifying effect created by showing the prints as diptychs and triptychs, one panel mounted alongside or on top of another, adds to the vastness of the impression. Yet no image is repeated. Rather, each frame contains a slightly different image, shot moments apart, from a subtly different viewpoint. Niedermayr, who grew up and still lives in the Dolomite mountains where he shoots many of his pictures, has exhibited his lifelong fascination with snowy landscapes in several previous international shows. In this latest series, BildRaum (Space Image), now at the Robert Miller Gallery until March 14, his new snow vistas mix pristine natural grandeur with untidy human leisure.
One piece, from afar an imposing white slope, spotlights a colorful line of eager skiers, waiting to board a ski-lift up the mountain. Up close, their cheerful anticipation transforms the mountain's scale. Nearby, a diptych shows another ski lift standing quiet in the cold light of early dusk, the snow around it rutted with the tracks of a day's skiing.
The show, which is Niedermayr's third at this gallery, also presents a taste of the artist's other recent preoccupation: Man-made space. There's a stark view of Manhattan's New Museum, a smooth, seven-story edifice built of cream-colored blocks placed irregularly, one atop another, silhouetted against the sky. The building was designed by Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, whose work Niedermayr has been chronicling for years. There is also a memorable diptych made from what looks like two mirror images of a modern, strip-lit room, juxtaposed side by side. Only when one looks carefully, it's clear that they aren't mirror images -- not quite. Interesting as these are, it's still his images of the natural world -- peopled by us ants -- that resonate the most. That may be because, even in miniature, the human spirit bubbles through. So Niedermayr's photographs, inspired by the vastness of nature's scale, manage to leave us feeling alive. - Sue Woodman
Robert Miller Gallery 524 West 26 St., NY NY through March 14, 2009
Ms. Woodman is an ex-Brit and veteran journalist with a keen eye for detail.