James Welling studied at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh and received his B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. He was Professor of Fine Art at Bard College, Annandale-On-Hudson, New York, as well as at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, Massachusetts. He has been a professor at the Department of Art, University of California, Los Angeles, since 1995 and a guest professor at the Princeton University, New Jersey, since 2014.
Over the course of more than four decades, James Welling has been taking the conditions and pictorial practice of photography to task. His oeuvre is based on analysis and self-reflection as well as on complex production processes, the results of which are often experimental creations. Welling uses ordinary analog or digital photographic methods, with or without a camera, often in combination. His representational, quasi documentary series of works in the tradition of the classic art photograph emerge parallel to abstract photograms and computer-generated images. Welling is interested in modulations of light and shadow as well as the factor of time. He has never regarded a photograph as just a straightforward or simple record of what we see. Rather, it is literally translated “light-writing,” an inscription of light that obeys the laws of physics alone and is organized and put to (chromogenic) paper by the artist.
James Welling participated in the documenta IX in Kassel, Germany, in 1992 and the Whitney Biennial, New York City, New York, in 2008. In 2000, the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio organized a major survey of his work, which traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Baltimore Museum of Art.
The Kunstforum Bank Austia in Vienna has shown Welling's body of works which previously has been seen at the S.M.A.K. in Ghent, Netherlands.
Selected solo exhibitions: Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania (2015); Art Institute of Chicago (2014); Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (2013); Cincinnati Art Museum (2013); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2013); Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain (2013); The Wardsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut (2012); MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, Great Britain (2012); Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver (2012); The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (2010); Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York (2006); Palais de Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium (2002); Sprengel Museum, Hanover, Germany (1999); Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland (1998); Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (1998); Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany (1994); Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland (1990)
The artist's work is represented in major museum collections, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; MoMA, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; Vancouver Art Gallery; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.