Image: Matthew Brandt
From the series Lakes and Reservoirs, Klamath Lake, OR 2, 2009
Chromogenic print soaked in Klamath Lake water, Unique
© Matthew Brandt, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
June 28—September 9, 2013
CAM Raleigh presents Currents—Photographs from the collection of Allen Thomas, Jr., featuring nine emerging photographers: Michele Abeles, Matthew Baum, Matthew Brandt, Debbie Grossman, Carolyn Janssen, Maciek Jasik, Sarah Anne Johnson, Chris McCaw and Arne Svenson. Currents is curated by Nils Ericson.
Photography is such an important instrument in the education of our feelings and perception because of its duality. Photography represents the world we know, and suggests a world beyond what we can see. Creativity is the gap between perception and knowledge.
– Emmet Gowin
Currents, a selection of images from the Allen Thomas Jr. collection, exists, at first glance, as something of a disjointed, albeit attractive grouping. Its synchronicity comes not through a host of visual clues and similarities but through creative manipulation, alterations of space and time and identity that bridge this gap Emmet Gowin describes.
There is very little straight photography1 here. The closest examples, images by Arne Svenson2 and Matthew Baum, are so imbued with atmosphere, so emotionally charged by their historical context and/or subject matter3, and so painterly in execution and exhibition, their straightforward photographic nature hardly seems to apply. Their manipulation lies in tone, purpose, and meaning.
The other artworks, whether digital or analog, have taken that gap and interpreted it in a more physical way. The subject matter is largely landscape, including the human body as such, and the artists attack its representation via color, space, focus, and authenticity.
Debbie Grossman’s work is particularly of note. She has taken real photographs and fictionalized them, turned a frontier town and its documentary photographs into a dreamscape of all women and ambiguously gendered participants through digital means—the carving of jawbones and the thinning of hands etc. via Photoshop—to create a fantasy and entirely new historical document.
Carolyn Janssen’s work complements Grossman’s My Pie Town series nicely, weirdly. Her use of digital technology is extreme and awesome. She takes photographs and uses them as marks—as stamps or brush strokes—to create a tableau of what seems like a video game still or psychedelic dream/nightmare full of marauding bands of women. It is William Goldman’s Lord of the Flies in a broken, disjointed, hybridized landscape.
Matthew Brandt, Sarah Anne Johnson, and Chris McCaw’s work feels immensely, environmentally attached to photographic luminaries of yesteryear. Ansel Adams immediately comes to mind, although these images are clearly different, less document, less Sierra Club, more playful, more sinister. There is a heaviness, a sadness to these images which is punctuated, violently, by burning, through chemical reaction, or by the application of Fourth-of-July-worthy bursts of paint. If they aren’t direct calls to environmental action, they could be. The photographs exist as dour ruminations, mood pieces, that bring to mind the type of atmospheric luminance of Whistler’s Nocturne paintings. The artists have borrowed from painting’s vernacular and incorporated it into their photography, eschewing the possible perfection of digital, embracing the singular and evocative nature of analog mark-making and chance.
Maciek Jasik has clearly been influenced by paintings as well. The image is less photography, more a sensuous journey in what appears to be a watery, saturated world. It’s a tease of square-jawed promises and veined mid-sections that leads to what amounts to a very frustrating, but conceptually meaningful, blurring of the nethers. The oceanic depth doesn’t render the figure genderless, not by any means, but it does force the gaze elsewhere, visually and emotionally.
Michele Abeles takes that gaze, and gives it something to feast on, yet removes the form and completely obfuscates the identity, cutting off most of the imperatives—head, hands, feet—that make us human. The body becomes a rather deep and mesmerizing, circuitous yet flattened landscape, a place in which Abeles plays with space via a recognizable male form, scars and all, which gives us visual purchase in something of a visual puzzle. The reclining nude is a spatially complex and historically aware 180-degree turn from Ingre’s La Grande Odalisque, the form set behind blocks of color, his pale skin providing a palette and his midsection a focal point for the most saturated gel of all. Abeles is using the camera to alter perspective, in a shift akin to the photographs by Svenson. By taking the whole and making it fragmentary, by looking at things in pieces and eliminating identities, both Abeles and Svenson have succeeded in creating distance, opening a door to revelation4, bridging the gap between perception and knowledge.
Currents is a slow reveal. At its surface is a burgeoning collection of artists and artwork whose eclectic aesthetic notions—one of the show’s great strengths—breathe life into our visual fields. And then you look closer. You move beyond the roving packs of women on jagged cliffs falling from the sky; the floating, azure musculature; the nostalgic, once blood-soaked verdant fields; and the murky, hazy black-and-white burn of the sun. Eventually, the duality that Emmet Gowin describes begins to creep in. Lines are blurred, meanings change, perceptions shift. Emotion becomes part of the visual landscape that morphs into a creative exploration.
1. Straight photography refers to photography that attempts to depict a scene as realistically and objectively as permitted by the medium, renouncing the use of manipulation.
2. From his recent series Neighbors
3. In Baum’s case, the Civil War. In Svenson’s, ideas and rights regarding privacy versus art.
4. Vicki Goldberg
Michele Abeles (b. 1977) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has gained international attention in the past five years, notably as part of New Photography 2012 at the Museum of Modern Art, and multiple shows at 47 Canal in New York. Roberta Smith of the New York Times writes of Abeles’s images, “they cross and recross the line between abstraction and representation, also between private and public, between the natural and the artificial, always reminding us that images deluge every aspect of life.” Abeles’s work is included in collections of The Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art and has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, Artforum, Interview, The New Yorker, and Art in America.
Matthew Baum (b. 1973) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Over the last two years, Baum has been visiting American Civil War related locations as part of his landscape project, Overlook. Visiting these sites, palpably haunted with the past, has led the work to become a meditation on war and sacrifice, the particular mythology of the American Civil War and the meaning of “hallowed ground.” Baum’s work has been exhibited nationally and seen in publications such as The New York Times Magazine and Photo District News. He teaches photography at the School of Visual Arts and New York University Tisch School of the Arts.
For his series Lakes and Reservoirs, California artist Matthew Brandt (b. 1982) photographs bodies of water in the western United States, and then submerges each resulting C-print in water collected from the subject of the photograph. Prints are soaked for days or weeks or even months, and this process impacts the layers of color that comprise the image. Brandt’s work is included in collections at the Brooklyn Museum, Cincinnati Art Museum, Hammer Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and has been featured in publications such as Elle Décor, The New Yorker, and the New York Times. Art + Auction Magazine has named Matthew Brandt one of the 50 “Next Most Collectable Artists” in their feature “50 Under 50” and he was recently listed in Forbes “Top 30 Under 30 in Art & Design,” list Compiled by Jeffrey Deitch, Director, MOCA and Chuck Close, artist. Currents is Brandt’s first museum exhibition.
Debbie Grossman (b. 1977) is interested in playing with time, re-imagining history, and reviving archival images and documents. Her series My Pie Town reworks and re-imagines a body of images originally photographed by Russell Lee for the United States Farm Security Administration in 1940. Using Photoshop to modify Lee’s pictures, Grossman has created an imaginary, parallel world – a Pie Town populated exclusively by women. Grossman received an MFA in Photography, Video, and Related Media from the School of Visual Arts, New York, and holds a BA in Women’s Studies and Art History from Barnard College. Her work is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Jewish Museum.
Emerging artist Carolyn Janssen’s (b. 1981) giant digital compositions are photographic and painterly hybrids built from elements gleaned from personal photographs, which she applies and builds up like brushstrokes. Janssen has a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, and an MFA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The North Carolina Museum of Art commissioned Janssen to create three “billboards” for their Park Pictures outdoor project in 2011.
In his series Bypassing the Rational, artist Maciek Jasik (b. 1978) bathes his subjects in a thick haze of saturated color, intentionally blurring and focusing areas of each figure. Polish-born and Brooklyn based, Jasik received his Bachelor of Arts from John Hopkins University. His work has been featured in numerous culture publications such as Juxtapose, Beautiful/Decay, Wired Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek and more. Currents is Jasik’s first museum exhibition.
Canadian artist Sarah Anne Johnson (b. 1976) received her BFA from the University of Manitoba and her MFA from The Yale School of Art. For her Arctic Wonderland series, a unique application of photospotting ink to her chromogenic prints results in one-of-a-kind, otherworldly landscapes. Her work has been exhibited in numerous exhibitions internationally. Her work has been reviewed by Roberta Smith in The New York Times, Vince Aletti in Modern Painters, and Jerry Saltz in the Village Voice and is in the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Phillips Collection, National Gallery of Canada, North Carolina Museum of Art, and Yale University Art.
Chris McCaw (b. 1971) is working the boundaries of analogue photographic mediums with his Sunburn project. With the camera pointed at the sky, he exposes the film for hours. The resulting negative literally has a burnt hole in it with the landscape in complete reversal. The subject of the photograph (the sun) has transcended the idea that a photograph is simply a representation of reality, and has physically come through the lens onto the final piece. McCaw claims his favorite part of this process is, “watching smoke come out of the camera during the exposure and the faint smell of roasted marshmallows as the gelatin cooks.” McCaw shows his work extensively, often participating in six to eight exhibitions yearly. His work is collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Crocker Art Museum Sacramento, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Portland Art Museum, Oregon, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, as well as many private collectors.
For his new series Neighbors, photographer Arne Svenson (b. 1952) has turned outward from his studio-based practice to study the daily activities of his downtown Manhattan neighbors as seen through his windows into theirs. The voyeuristic images have an anonymous quality, showing the mundaneness of city life and humankind in general. Yet the residents of the neighboring building along with outspoken community members are calling foul on this method, gaining him much attention from the press. Svenson’s past work has been reviewed extensively in publications such as the New York Times, the New Yorker, Art in America, Los Angeles Times, Art Papers, and the Village Voice. His work is collected by the
Museum of Fine Arts Houston, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and corporate collections including the Cleveland Clinic, Goldman Sachs, and the Walt Disney Corporation.
The exhibition Currents—Photographs from the collection of Allen Thomas, Jr., is curated by Nils Ericson. It is organized by CAM Raleigh and coordinated by Kate Thompson Shafer, interim director and Jeff Bell, lead preparator. CAM Raleigh is a collaboration between the Contemporary Art Foundation, the community and North Carolina State University’s (NC State) College of Design.
Allen Thomas, Jr. is a Wilson, NC native and one of the Southeast’s foremost collectors of contemporary photography. Thomas is passionate about contemporary art and access to great art. He has exhibited works from his collection at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke, Greenville Museum of Art, Taubman Museum of Art, SECCA, Wilson Arts Council, Barton College, Flanders Gallery and has upcoming shows at both CAM Raleigh and the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts at App State, Boone, NC. Thomas is currently the chair of CAM Raleigh’s Contemporary Art Foundation.
The exhibition and publication have been made possible by contributions from
CAM Raleigh is funded in part by the City of Raleigh based on recommendations of the Raleigh Arts Commission.
Opening Preview Celebrations and Exhibition Related Public Programs
Opening Preview Reception
June 28, 2013
6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m.
Free for Members.
Curator Talk with Nils Ericson
Saturday, June 29, 2013
Meet Nils Ericson as he gives an informal tour of the Currents exhibition.
Tour is free with museum admission. Free for Members.
July 5, August 2
6:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.
CAM Raleigh’s First Friday program includes after-hours access to the galleries, new hands-on activities at the creation station, music by local DJs, food trucks, and a cash bar. First Fridays are free thanks to individual and corporate monthly sponsors.
Art + Auction Magazine has named Matthew Brandt one of the 50 “Next Most Collectable Artists” in their feature “50 Under 50.” Pick up a copy of Art + Auction’s June edition to read the full article
In the In-Between – August 10
Carolyn Janssen and the Digital Sublime
News & Observer – July 13
‘Currents’ photography show reveals an array of artistic approaches
The Herald-Sun – July 11
CAM show features hand-developed to digital images
APhotoEditor.com – June 7
Photographs Push First Amendment Boundaries article on Arne Svenson
About the Emerging Artist Series
CAM Raleigh is the only museum in the region with a dedicated gallery for emerging artists and designers. Through exhibiting emerging artists whose work is still in progress and fresh from the studio, CAM Raleigh celebrates the diversity of artistic expression and places the artist at the center of the community. The museum supports early career contemporary artists in an atmosphere where they are encouraged to foster a cross-pollination of ideas and dynamic interaction with visitors. Visitors from all walks of life frequently have the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with the artists celebrated in this series. CAM Raleigh’s Independent Weekly Gallery features the Emerging Artist Series.