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John Pfahl (b. 1939), Dark Cathedral, 2006; digital print mounted on Plexiglas with polycarbonate laminate, 83 5/8 x 20 3/4 inches; frame: 85 x 22 1/8 x 1 1/4 inches; Gift of the artist and the Nina Freudenheim Gallery, 2017

John Pfahl (b. 1939), Dark Cathedral, 2006; digital print mounted on Plexiglas with polycarbonate laminate, 83 5/8 x 20 3/4 inches; frame: 85 x 22 1/8 x 1 1/4 inches; Gift of the artist and the Nina Freudenheim Gallery, 2017

John Pfahl’s compelling landscapes alter perceptions of the world that surrounds us. During his distinguished career, he has photographed the sublime—both extraordinarily powerful and beautiful vistas and alarming details that trace pollution in the endangered environment. This internationally renowned artist has also experimented with photographic processes throughout his career. The stretched, purposely distorted images of his Scrolls series of 2006 are reminiscent of centuries-old Chinese landscape paintings (which also influenced Charles Burchfield when he was a student at the Cleveland School of Art). The vastness of the sunset sky over the darkened horizon line of indistinguishable elements—perhaps both trees and buildings—are exaggerated by the height of this narrow work. The dark horizon shapes yearning upwards, atmospheric glow, and clouds shifting from a warm register to cooler blues and violets suggest a mystical quality, transforming what might have been a mundane site into a “dark cathedral,” imagined by Pfahl and thus created in his studio. The original photograph was taken of Strawberry Island and the Niagara River from Black Rock and the elongated smokestacks on the horizon are part of the now-closed Huntley Power Station in Tonawanda. —NW