1950's Darkroom

This small, focused exhibition comprises eight works, ranging in date from 1948 to 2014, that feature diverse techniques and approaches to photography, from traditional gelatin silver prints to photograms and experiments with color photo-sensitive paper. While photography is generally understood as a form of documentation, abstraction has been intrinsic to the medium since its invention in the 19th century. Early experiments with light-sensitive materials were camera-less abstractions by necessity. While today we generally associate photography with camera-based images that bear witness to the happenings of life, there are a number of contemporary practitioners who are breaking with the medium’s more conventional concerns of perspective, depth of field, and representation (or investigation) of truth or fiction. Many fine art photographers, including those represented here, reject the documentary imperative of the medium in favor of the conceptual and aesthetic possibilities of abstract images.

Portrait of Ellen Carey by Douglas Levere

In the cases of Ralph Gibson, Aaron Siskind, James Welling, and Tim Davis, their work begins with documenting aspects of the real world. However, their choice to highlight texture, color, and patterns of light and shadow, renders their images almost entirely abstract. Alternately, artists Arthur Siegel, Ellen Carey, and Marco Breuer set out to create abstract patterns with gestures that resemble other mediums such as drawing, painting, and printmaking. In both approaches, the images on view are not a record of a moment that occurred in the world around us but an account of the artists’ actions. The results are photographic artworks that are visually commanding and compositionally complex and the viewer is left to marvel at the pattern, light, and color—as well as the pure wonder—of the work.

This exhibition was held in the Hoene Hoy Photography Gallery, Fall 2017