In more than three decades, James Welling has created an oeuvre that, at first glance, comprises extremely heterogeneous series of works. His photographs are based on complex production processes with a number of historical references. The representational, quasi-documentary series of works in the tradition of the classical art photography of a Paul Strand are created in parallel with abstract works, the photograms, as they were anchored in the art canon by the avant-garde with Moholy-Nagy, Christian Schad and Man Ray. “I see, in retrospect, no way to escape the history of photography.” (JW, 2003)
James Welling uses ordinary analogue or digital photographic processes, with or without a camera, often also in combinations thereof and completely removed from all artistic tenets. He is interested in modulations of light and shadow as well as the factor of time. A “slowing down” of seeing, a disturbance of the fast-paced consumption of images occurs. In reference to the American lyricist Wallace Stevens, who is opposed to the quick reading and comprehension of poems, James Welling states: “I do want to slow down that kind of recognition. I wanted to do something that would ‘un-peel’ the image, because I’ve never thought of a photograph as just a straightforward or simple record of what you see.” (JW, 2007) In this way, calling into question the documentary character of photography, James Welling instead gives physical form to that which he himself sees by composing it and putting it on paper.
We are showing works from the series “Torsos,” 2005–2008, in which the artist places wire mesh on chromogenic paper, arranging it to follow body contours, and then exposing it. The result is the recording of the materiality of the screen, its opacity, its translucency. Also on display will be new works from a series entitled “Glass House”; these are architectural photographs of Philip Johnson’s home in New Canaan, Connecticut, which was built from 1947–1949 in the European modernist tradition of a Mies van der Rohe. Using color filters to take the pictures, he alters and manipulates the light-flooded building in unfamiliar ways. The series “Quadrilaterals,” 2007, are Welling’s first computer-generated images. Using Maya graphics software, he projects a three-dimensional figure, producing fine shades of gray within the form in the two-dimensional result. In addition, we are also presenting works from the artist’s newly begun series “Untitled,” photograms on chromogenic paper created in the darkroom.