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This Is a Photograph | Penland Gallery Exhibition

Chris McCaw Heliograph 095
Chris McCaw, Heliograph 095, two unique gelatin silver paper negatives, 10 x 8 inches each. This image was created by exposing photo paper in a view camera for long enough to allow the sun to create a trail across the negative. This piece represents two solar exposures.

 

What possibilities do historic photographic processes offer to contemporary artists? What does it mean to make photographic images with chemically-sensitized and processed materials in the digital era? These are some of the questions raised by “This Is a Photograph: Exploring Contemporary Applications of Photographic Chemistry,” the inaugural exhibition at the newly renovated and expanded Penland Gallery & Visitors Center. Curated by Brooklyn-based photographic artist and long-time Penland instructor Dan Estabrook, the exhibition not only reveals some of the arresting possibilities of these processes, it also brings work by world-class image makers to our community here in Western North Carolina.

Jerry Spagnoli Glasses
Jerry Spagnoli, Glasses 3-3-12, daguerreotype, 14 x 11 inches. A daguerreotype is an image created on a silver surface that has been polished to a mirror finish and then sensitized with fuming iodine and bromine. Dating to 1839, it was the first widely-used photographic process.

“This Is a Photograph” displays work by twenty-three artists experimenting with a variety of processes and materials in ways that frequently have little to do with their historic antecedents: tintype images made on found metal objects, large daguerreotypes that look almost holographic, images created by painting directly onto photo paper with chemicals, and images made by igniting gunpowder that had been sprinkled directly onto photo paper, to name a few. As Penland Gallery Director Kathryn Gremley describes, “handmade images created through the complex alchemy of light and chemistry are the common ground of the artists invited by Estabrook for this exhibition.”

“This Is a Photograph” opens on March 22, 2016. The gallery will celebrate with a public reception on Saturday, March 26 from 4:30-6:30 p.m at which Dan Estabrook and some of the artists will be present. The exhibition will be on display through May 1.

 

“This Is a Photograph” features the following artists: David Emitt Adams, Christina Z. Anderson, John Brill, Christopher Colville, Bridget Conn, Danielle Ezzo, Jesseca Ferguson, Alida Fish, Adam Fuss, Mercedes Jelinek, Richard Learoyd, Vera Lutter, Sally Mann, Chris McCaw, Sibylle Peretti, Andreas Rentsch, Holly Roberts, Mariah Robertson, Alison Rossiter, Brea Souders, Jerry Spagnoli, Bettina Speckner, Brian Taylor

Read Dan Estabrook’s essay on the show below, and you can see images of all the work in the show on the Penland Gallery website.

 

Adam Fuss Untitled
Adam Fuss, Untitled 2006, unique cibachrome photogram, 30 x 40 inches (courtesy of Cheim and Read, NY). This image was created by exposing color photographic paper through a transparent tank of colored water (with a baby in it).

 

One year ago, I was here at Penland teaching a workshop called “Photography in Reverse,” in which the students and I worked backward through the entire history of photography, stopping at key moments to experiment, play, and think about the nature of each technology. Starting with our smartphones and handheld devices—the very definition of today’s tech—we began to ask ourselves how photography has changed at this critical moment, now that almost all our daily photographic usage is created and printed digitally. At our first step backward in time, with the earliest digital cameras, we learned something crucial: although photography is becoming purely digital, like much else in our life today, we still live in a physical world, and there are artists who will always want to make physical things.

Christopher Colville Dark Horizon 41
Christopher Colville, Dark Horizon 41, gunpowder generated gelatin silver print; unique print, 8 x 6 inches. This image was created by igniting gunpowder in the presence of photographic paper.

We had to scramble to find the right cords and batteries and software so we could use some early digital cameras from 2001, and it became evident how much harder it was to work with the obsolete technology of 5 or 15 years ago than with the processes of 150 years ago. Most of our computers now can’t run the first version of Photoshop (ca. 1990) or read early Photo CDs or Zip Drives. Even the standard color snapshot is being discontinued, since the machines required to make and develop color films are disappearing for good. The history of photography, like the history of technology in general, seems to suggest that every new system or process is an advancement on the last, making all older forms obsolete. And yet for every technique that has been pronounced dead, there seems to be an artist ready to explore its particular expressive qualities. After all, decades after the invention of mass-produced ceramics, people still want to throw beautiful pots. The artists in this exhibition are each exploring the possibilities of physical and chemical photography to pursue their own contemporary aims, very much in the here and now.

Some are finding a wealth of new beauty in the simplicity of the photographic act—a permanent mark made by the meeting of light and chemistry. Others are deeply engaged with history, in how we look backward from the present or forward to the years ahead. Still others have realized how much can be revealed in the life of a physical photographic object. Any technology that can still be used by artists, whether it’s something that can be handmade or something produced from saved and scavenged machines, is going to have an ongoing parallel history through the work of these artists, not just as a period relic but as a technology carried along into the present with new developments and new meaning for the future.

A decade from now it will likely be easier to make a daguerreotype than to use the iPhone you bought in 2016; in 100 years that will be even more true. In the meantime, there will be artists like these to involve us in the material world in which we live, and to expand the possibilities of just what a photograph is.

Dan Estabrook | Studio Artist | Penland Instructor

 

Sally Mann Untitled (Self Portraits)
Sally Mann, Untitled (Self-Portraits), 2012, unique collodion wet-plate positives on metal with sandarac varnish, 9 parts, 10 x 8 inches each (courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, NY). These self-portraits were made using the traditional tintype technique, which involves pouring a liquid emulsion onto a metal plate and then exposing it before it has completely dried.

 

Alida Fish Winter Leaves
Alida Fish, Winter Leaves, archival pigment print transferred onto oxidized aluminum, 24 x 20 inches. Alida creates patterns of oxidation on aluminum sheets and then transfers digitally-printed photographs onto the metal surface.

 

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An Expansive Vision

 

Dan Gottlieb, Bosphorus Ferry Terminal, Istanbul, archival inkjet print, 21 x 21 inches, 2010

 

On February 2, a special exhibition will open in support of Penland’s new photography studio.  An Expansive Vision: Photographers Working for Penland will culminate in a live auction of a wide-range of works by photographers with Penland connections and affinities. Absentee bids are encouraged.

 

Dan Gottlieb’s photograph taken in a terminal ferry in Istanbul (above), is one of the works included in An Expansive Vision. About the photograph, Dan writes:

This piece is part of a long series of (non)documentation of places of deep immersion—in this case, Istanbul. Small cameras act as an extension of my body’s movement, recording not conventional information but my own presence moving through time and place. Light, like memory and time is bent and blurred. The frame is my own design (patent pending), as a way to ‘preserve’ the immaterial in a sort of Riker Box.–Dan Gottlieb

 

The exhibition and auction will be hosted by Ellen Cassilly and Frank Konhaus at their Chapel Hill, NC residence, gallery and residency space, Cassilhaus. If you’re in the Triangle area, an opening reception featuring a gallery talk by Robin Dreyer (whose work is included in the show) will take place on Sunday, February 2, at 2:00 pm. If you would like to attend, please contact Frank Konhaus directly at fkonhaus@kontek.com to RSVP.

The exhibition is also open by appointment leading up to the auction, February 2-March 2. Cassilhaus will host a live auction on Sunday, March 2, and absentee bids are encouraged. Please take a look at the full details for how to place bids from afar and an auction catalog, here.

Below are a few more of the works (and statements about these works) provided by the artists for An Expansive Vision:

 

Alida Fish, Nautilus with Bug, gelatin silver print with hand painting, 16 x 20 inches, 1985

 

This piece was shot in the summer while I was teaching a workshop at Penland. I had Morgan house to myself one afternoon and looked around for inspiration. The nautilus shell was borrowed from Evon Streetman, the pods and the beetle I found near the porch steps. For me this work symbolizes the beauty and inspiration I often find at Penland. It was printed in the darkroom: it is a black and white silver print. The insect is hand-painted with enamel paint.–Alida Fish

 
 

John Pfahl, Big Dipper (Charlotte, North Carolina), archival inkjet print, 8 x 10 inches, 1976

 

This photograph is part of the Altered Landscape series. About a dozen workshop participants helped set up sparklers in a cornfield near the home of photographer Martha Strawn.–John Pfahl

 
 

David Spear, Juana Paloma, Mexico, 1998, gelatin silver print, 18 x 18 inches, 1998

 

This photograph was made in the desert along Highway 59, the main North/South highway in Mexico near the city of Matahuala. I saw this young girl with the raven lying on the ground sleeping, the raven tied to a stick next to her. I asked her mother if I could make a photograph and she agreed. Juana stood up and held the raven. I made several photographs. Later in the darkroom, I could see that the resulting photograph was quite startling. Innocence and innocence lost all at the same moment, the heroic face set against a hard world. She touches people in ways that they have not plumbed. She brings out the goodness in people here.–David Spear

 

An Expansive Vision: Photographs Working for Penland’s Future features work by Kyle Bajakian, Courtney Dodd, Chris Peregoy, David Spear, Ralph Burns, James Henkel, Benjamin Porter, Jim Stone, Shane Darwent, Russell Jeffcoat, John Pfahl, Evon Streetman, Robin Dreyer, Keith Johnson, Brook Reynolds, Harry Taylor, Dan Estabrook, Naima Merella, Holly Roberts, Sarah Van Keuren, Alida Fish, E. Vincent Martinez, Linda Foard Roberts, Caroline Hickman Vaughan, Lisa A. Frank, Elizabeth Matheson, Alyssa C. Salomon, David H. Wells, Dan Gottlieb, John Menapace, MJ Sharp, John Woodin, David Graham, Jeannie Pearce, and Jerry Spagnoli–and is sponsored by Ellen Cassilly and Frank Konhaus, Jefferson Holt, Light Art+Design, Barbara McFadyen and Douglass Phillips, Kaola and Frank Phoenix, and Allen Thomas.

 

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0 to 60 in Manhattan

Left: Richard Hughes, Untitled (Triptick), 2009, cast polyurethane, 12⁄1 2 × 14 × 2⁄1 2 inches, courtesy of the artist, Anton Kern Gallery, NY, and Hall Collection. © 2009 Richard Hughes, Anton Kern Gallery, N.Y., and Hall Collection; Photo: Thomas Müller. Right: Dan Estabrook, The Kiss, 2011, unique gum bichromate print with watercolor, 18 x 15 inches, collection of Allen G. Thomas, Jr., Wilson, N.C. © Dan Estabrook. Reproduction courtesy of Daniel Cooney Fine Art, New York.
Left: Richard Hughes, Untitled (Triptick), 2009, cast polyurethane, 12⁄1 2 × 14 × 2⁄1 2 inches, courtesy of the artist, Anton Kern Gallery, NY, and Hall Collection. © 2009 Richard Hughes, Anton Kern Gallery, N.Y., and Hall Collection; Photo: Thomas Müller. Right: Dan Estabrook, The Kiss, 2011, unique gum bichromate print with watercolor, 18 x 15 inches, collection of Allen G. Thomas, Jr., Wilson, N.C. © Dan Estabrook. Reproduction courtesy of Daniel Cooney Fine Art, New York.

 

0 to 60: The Experience of Time through Contemporary Art will open on November 21 at Pratt Manhattan Gallery in New York City. The exhibition, co-organized by the North Carolina Museum of Art and Penland School of Crafts, includes works that explore time as a theme–real time, virtual time, historical time, recorded time, manipulated time, or the passage of time.

 

This version of the exhibition (which was on-view at the NCMA in the spring and summer of 2013) includes work by Penland instructors Dan Bailey, Jana Brevick, David Chatt, Sonya Clark, Alison Collins and Dan Estabrook.

 

The exhibition opens with a reception on Thursday, November 21, 6-8 pm, at Pratt Manhattan Gallery, 144 West 14th Street. The exhibition runs through January 25, 2014.

 

Artists included in 0 to 60 at Pratt include:

Caetano de Almeida
Dan Bailey
Walead Beshty
Jana Brevick
Paul Chan
David Chatt
Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao
Sonya Clark
Alison Collins
Dan Estabrook
Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Lisa Hoke
Tehching Hsieh
Richard Hughes
Rafeal Lozano-Hemmer
Peter Matthews
David Shapiro