Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Afterimage - Life After the Death of Photography

I was very thankful to have been given the opportunity to curate a show for MCAD, Afterimage: Life After the Death of Photography! In short, it was a show highlighting contemporary artists who use chemical, alternative, and/or antiquated photographic methods. It was an incredible chance to pull together some of my favorite art makers! Of course still I felt like I left out a ton of other amazing people, we could've done this show 10 times over.

Participating artists:

Check out some of their work! Though, it wasn't necessarily what we included in the show.

Timothy G. Piotrowski, Miss Tommie Riley with Victorian Bathing Outfit, 1900 - No. I, Toned silver gelatin print, 2012

Glenn Grafelman, Composition #5, Ferrotype photogram, 2013

Lacey Prpić Hedtke, Headless Ghost, Daguerreotype, 2013

Zoey Melf, Dakota, Ferrotype, 2014, Art Direction by Eric Timothy Carlson for Fugitive

Dave Molnar, Untitled, Gum bichromate, 2013

Cy DeCosse, Moon Flower, Platinum-palladium print, 2014, Printed by Keith Taylor

Stefanie Motta, Bodies of Water #3 (Lake Superior water, Sunlight), Archival Inkjet Print, 2014

Andrew Moxom, Muzzle, Wet plate collodion, 2011

Dave Rambow, Hartquist, The Undertaker, Ambrotype, 2010

Carla Rodriguez, Jonathan, Black & White Film and Nails, 2014

S. Gayle Stevens, Flight (installation view,) Wet plate collodion, 2014

"The Daguerreotype and the Photogenic revolution are to keep you all down, ye painters, engravers, and alas the harmless race, the sketchers!" —The Corsair: A Gazette of Literature, Art, Dramatic Criticism, Fashion and Novelty, 1839

Photography has always been a threat to the status of art as well as to itself; by some accounts it has died many deaths, and taken several casualties along the way. Since the medium's official introduction in 1839, each passing year brings new modes of making that continually challenge and redefine the previous standards. The contemporary use of processes once thought obsolete is proof that they were never fully exhausted in their time; they are still viable modes of innovation and exploration. In addition, the application of alternative methods are not just favoring past generations or fashionable new ones. These techniques never went away and never died.

The exhibition title, Afterimage: Life After the Death of Photography, is inspired by the rhetoric used in the last decades to describe photography's certain fate at the hands of digital imaging, a familiar argument made with each technological advancement. Photography is intrinsically tied to technology and the belief that we are perpetually on the brink of a new beginning or end. With an innumerable amount of processes and methods available to artists, photography's parameters are as blurred today as they were 175 years ago.

"Critical entomologists from Baudelaire to Benjamin and from Sontag to Crimp are constantly trapping the elusive medium in their butterfly nets, screwing it down into killing bottles, and then spreading out the apparently fixed specimen to best advantage in a display case—only to see it suddenly shake its wings and fly away, leaving behind a scattering of iridescent scales. It would be possible to paper a room with definitive pronouncements regarding the purpose and nature of photography." —John Stathatos, The Territories of Art, 2007

The artists included in Afterimage are modernizing the myth of photography and its ostensible technological progress. They are not simply replicating old methods, but recontextualizing them in the 21st century. From traditional themes like sexuality, religion, and nature to explorations of material, surface, and chemical reactions, the artists are filtering new ideas through demoded techniques.

The implied antithesis of chemical photography, digital imaging, is just one more amazing arrow in the quiver of the medium, and is often intertwined seamlessly with analog processes. We are inspired by the notion that photography is the quintessential amorphous gray mass. It has no edges, it is not truth or fiction, black or white, digital or analog, candid or staged; it is all these things, and none of them, simultaneously.

"[New technology] created an army of photographers who run rampant over the globe, photographing objects of all sorts, sizes and shapes, under almost every condition, without ever pausing to ask themselves, is this or that artistic? . . . They spy a view, it seems to please, the camera is focused, the shot taken! There is no pause, why should there be? For art may err but nature cannot miss, says the poet, and they listen to the dictum. To them, composition, light, shade, form and texture are so many catch phrases." —E. E. Cohen, Bad Form in Photography, 1893

Nathan Lewis, adjunct professor, gallery and fellowship coordinator

Some exhibition shots:

A big thanks to all the artists, Kerry Morgan, and the gallery installation crew for making this happen!

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