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"Sun Pictures to MegaPixels: Archaic Processes to Alternative Realities (Pre-and Post-Modernist Photography)"
2007-09-29 until 2007-11-04
Williamsburg Art and Historical Center
Brooklyn, NY, USA United States of America

absolutearts.com artists, Ellen Jantzen and Brad Michael Moore, will exhibit work beginning Saturday, September 29th and continuing through November 4th, 2007 in the exhibition titled: "Sun Pictures to MegaPixels: Archaic Processes to Alternative Realities (Pre-and Post-Modernist Photography)," at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center, 135 Broadway, Brooklyn, New York 11211. Opening is 4 to 6 pm September 29,2007 and, also, there will be a Costume Ball for the Opening Night's festivities - along with a special performance - "Photonic Sculptural Movement."

Statement by Joel Simpson, Curator

"Why put archaic process photography together with digital photography in the same show?  It's because they each subvert one of the central tenants of photographic modernism: the transparency of the medium, and the truthfulness of the image.  Archaic process photographers, with their chemical signatures, compromise transparency, while digital process photographers, as they elaborate the plausible impossibilities of their vision, abandon literal veracity.

"This makes archaic process photography as a kind of expressionism: the visibility of the chemical medium imparts an emotional perspective to the subject. Digital process photographers, on the other hand, drawing their inspiration from the imaginative freedom of the surrealists (as do commercial photographers, though in a more circumscribed way), use their freedom to create fantasy worlds, dreamscapes, as extravagant as those of Dali, Ernst, or Magritte. Both are represented masterfully and with great originality in the show." - Joel Simpson

Joel Simpson has been photographing since 1960 through careers in academia (teaching college English, French and Italian) and jazz piano. He produced the Dick Hyman Century of Jazz Piano CD-ROM in 1999, while living in New Orleans. After returning to the New York area in 2000, he began writing art criticism and showing his fine art photography in area galleries beginning in 2002. The Sun Pictures to Mega-Pixels show was conceived following the success of Brave Destiny a major exhibition of surrealist art at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center in 2003. Simpson began working on the show in 2004. After many bureaucratic delays and by virtue of the persistence of the small community of photographic artists in the show, it is finally coming to fruition.

Joel Simpson was assisted by curator by Ellen Carey, Associate Professor of Photography, Hartford Art School, University of Hartford.

Brad Michael Moore states about his work:
My "MultiPlexing," represents a process of mirroring and unfolding an image to observe its hidden symmetrical qualities. I apply the process to a wide range of subjects, transforming simpler random forms them into new structures of balance and symmetry, revealing new meanings. Sometimes I destabilize the process via additive visual notions that slightly skew the image equilibrium. I began practicing the MultiPlexing art form piecemeal (by the panel) in the darkroom - a very laborious exercise. Digital process makes things much easier. My first exhibitions of MultiPlexes (in the form of photo-assemblages) were shown in 1984, in Dallas, Texas, at the Turtle Creek Gallery, and in 1987, at the Houston Center for Photography.

This work, perhaps seeded from Op Art, seeks to be more than a Rorschach Test, more than a wallpaper. I search, through the mind-friendly medium of repetition, to uncover formal beauty in an external world of randomness.

Ellen Jantzen states:
I am inspired with the natural world; rock formations, seedpods, nests, eggs; shapes that resonate with reproduction, growth and repetition. At the same time, I find the digital world of computer technology, as it relates to imagery, compelling. I am intrigued with surfaces...the exterior/visible, and how it manifests the interior...the hidden realm. I stage assemblages of a variety of objects, either man-made or of a natural nature; sometimes I include organic sculptures of mine. I take digital photographs of these, then using my computer, I alter the images using various drawing and photography software programs to layer, re-color then re-manipulate even more; the process becomes almost infinite. Working digitally with my computer allows me to see in new ways; it allows me to be surprised by the outcome and the possibilities.

Archaic process photography-the early photographic methods developed in the 19th Century-and digital process photography-the largely filmless creation of real-seeming but often highly imaginative and impossible images through computer programs-may seem to be unlikely partners in an exhibition. The only thing they seem to have in common is their opposition to photographic modernism, what most people think of as photography's mainstream. As it became the standard photographic process in the 1920s and reigning virtually unchallenged into the 1960s (despite marginalized though prophetic experimentation in the hands of the surrealists), it was based on two fundamental principles that defined it as its own graphic medium, utterly different from all others: the (mechanical) capturing process was deemed to be transparent (excepting the absence of color in black and white photography), and the subject matter was understood to be actual, really out there. If something was a "photograph" (and not a drawing, painting or "artist's conception") then this testified to its authenticity.

Jerry Uelsmann (b. 1934), one of the contemporary pioneers in visionary photography, though working entirely in the chemical darkroom, points out in his interview with Paul Karabinis quoted on his page in this catalogue (and available in full atwww.uelsmann.net), that thirty years ago this modernist conception of photography was so entrenched that his combinatory montages were dismissed (in New York) as not "true" photographs! Of course, I can still hear that old sense of the word photograph in my head (as in "Is it a drawing or is it a photograph?"). A photograph was something that represented true reality, full stop. A photographer was a technician responsible for the accurate conveyance of that reality through the photographic medium. This aesthetic concept hatched endless debates over whether photography was an art or merely a craft, a debate which finally began to fade only in the late Sixties when vintage photographs began commanding painting-like prices on the art market.

Very soon after that, in the 1970s, interest began to grow in the revival of the archaic methods of photographic capture. Please refer to Mark Osterman and France Scully-Osterman's excellent historical essay, on this subject, "Photohumanism," included on this disk. Generally speaking-since there are so many of these processes-the chemistry added elements of mood, nuance and randomness of design (especially along the edges), that offered strong aesthetic appeal. In addition, the works were unique, monoprints, so could be sold for much more than easily reproducible prints (see also Lyle Rexer's definitive study Photography's Antiquarian Avant-Garde: the New Wave in Old Processes [New York: Abrams, 2002]). Twenty years later came the digital revolution, which placed literal image-making at the disposal of virtually everyone (video now, too), while photographic image manipulation became an artistic medium on a par with illustration and even fine art, as so many artists in this show illustrate. At this point the pairing of archaic process with digital process might make more sense: each subverts a basic tenet of photographic modernism. Archaic process photographers, with their chemical signatures, compromise transparency, while digital process photographers, as they elaborate the plausible impossibilities of their vision, abandon literal veracity.

And what emerged to take their place? Emotion and visionary imagination. In this sense, archaic process photography is a kind of photographic expressionism: the visibility of the chemical medium imparts an emotional perspective to the subject. Digital process photographers, on the other hand, drawing their inspiration from the imaginative freedom of the surrealists (as do commercial photographers, though in a more circumscribed way), use their freedom to create fantasy worlds, dreamscapes, as extravagant as those of Dalė, Ernst or Magritte. The more skillfully this is done the more believable it is. Just look at Steven Ochs' three-dimensional vertiginous interiors, or Steve Danzig's operatic scenes of Dark Eros, where naked grotesques cavort among ominous baroque edifices. Uelsmann, also in the show, led the way: we now accept the visual communication of a composite photograph that doesn't hide its artifice, such as in Steven Marc's highly symbolic studies in his Underground Railroad  series. In addition to artist working within these clear categories, we have been fortunate to be able to show artists who present their images in novel ways, ways that deepen or extend the power of the images themselves. We have also included several installations that examine fundamental concepts such as seeing and time.

Sun Pictures to Mega-Pixels at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center presents 116 artists and 263 works, including 5 installations. By interpreting the categories liberally, we've welcomed a broad range of photographic innovations, in addition to the classic archaic processes and strict computer-based digital process-and we're honored to start with Jerry Uelsmann himself. Among the archaic processes represented in the show are ambrotypes, collodions, cyanotypes, albumin prints, salt prints, tintypes, platinums, and pinhole ziatypes.

Some of the highlights of the show include the following: Keliy Anderson-Staley's  family history of snapshots anodized into 25 baking pans, and Pauline Mariano's of cyanotypes embedded into a huge apron; the representation of duration and movement through Marilyn Stern's multiple composite, of an Argus-eyed view of space through Jennifer Williams' composites, and of Dan Dezarn's deconstruction of a 45-second duration through a series of pinhole images; the faery-like creations combining ferns, moths and bat skeleton in Rebecca Clark's cyanotypes; Roy LaGrone's transformations of street trash into historically resonant spiritual objects; Christine Bailey's wry commentary on middle class American life in her grafting of a prom queen's head (her own blond-wigged self) on every subject of 292 snapshots; Aileen Bassis' book-objects that physically embody the Altzheimer's suffering they depict; Sue Bowen's unfurled kaleidoscopic multi-exposure Holga panoramas; Colleen Choquette-Raphael's deconstruction of identity through her radical juxtaposition of neuropathological tissue samples and 19th Century cartes-de-viste; Barbara Jenny's appropriation of skin textures and complexions into geometic wallpaper patterns; K-Lab's assemblages of digital and archaic process image fragments into richly resonant meditations on the life and death of birds; Jennifer Libby's construction of a torso made of found snapshots plaiting a wire frame, Louviere and Vanessa's nightmarish fairy-tales in sepia, wax and blood; Michael Mazzeo's African goddesses in somber ambrotype; Thomas Mezzanotte's liminal anamorphic bodies that straddle splatter and intelligibility; Mark Osterman's evocative salt prints of his own deliberately hokey medicine show; Yana Payusova's updated "Orthodox"  ikons of the adolescents in Russian prisons; Vincent Serbin's surreal negative collages; and Maggie Taylor's whimsical transformations of 19th Century portraits.

View more of Brad Michael Moore's work in his Premiere Portfolio at http://www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/b/bradmichaelmoore/

Additional images of Ellen Jantzen's work can be seen at http://www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/e/ellenjantzen/.

IMAGE:
Artist: Brad Michael Moore
Title: Feathered Flower
Year Created: 2005
Medium: Other Photograph
Width: 24 inches
Height: 24 inches
Edition Size: 3
Price: US$ 700


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