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JAMES WELLING | ABSTRACT PHOTOGRAPHY REVISITED

March 3rd 2017
Postmodern artist James Welling seeks to contest the practice of photography as a means of representation and explore the opportunities it offers as an artistic process. Read more about the four Eyestorm editions created with the artists in 1999 below.

At first glance, these abstract works by LA-based artist and photographer James Welling have quite an ambiguous existence. Black stripes of varying thicknesses cross over in all directions against a white surface, with no real order or identifiable structure, yet there’s a sense of harmony when the works are viewed together as a series. Not your average photographs, the abstract nature of these images would perhaps lend itself more appropriately to the mediums of screenprinting, painting or even sculpture.

It’s not surprising to learn then, that Welling - born in Connecticut in 1951 - after studying drawing as a young teenager, went on to learn under Gandy Brodie, a second generation Abstract Expressionist who introduced him to the work of some of the great artists such as Matisse, Klee and Rothko. Welling’s interest in fine art continued, and he began to make Super 8 films, sculpture and paintings. It was at this point that he became interested in using photography as a medium for his art and began to create and develop his own black and white photographs, as well as experimenting with Polaroid film, employing techniques such as making long exposures with a shutterless camera and heating prints during processing in order to intensify the colours. It was at this point he more or less left other mediums behind and focussed solely on photography as a means of expressing his art.

More experimentation continued when James Welling moved to New York in 1978, as he photographed aluminium foil, drapery velvet scattered with pastry dough, ink-infused gelatine and plastic tiles to create abstract images, which were exhibited in his first solo show at Metro Pictures, NYC, a few years later. Welling found himself part of a group of artists who included Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman that were all taking an alternative approach to photography and presenting it as fine art; something that was quite a new phenomenon at the time.

The Eyestorm editions created in 1999, simply titled 21, 1A, 30 and 31, are from a series of unique tonally inverted photograms called ‘New Abstractions’ which Welling worked on between 1998 and 2001. The original photograms were exhibited in Germany, Los Angeles, Chicago, Brussels and New York, and in 1999 he was awarded the DG BANK-Forderpreis in photography for the series. The Eyestorm prints are silver gelatin works in editions of 100 and are taken from the original photograms, which are currently valued in the range of $5,000 and $7,000 each.

With works in several public collections such as MOMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney in New York, Welling’s experiments with the medium have cemented his importance in the history of American photography, and in 2014, the New York Times named him as one of today’s most influential photographers.

See 21, 1A, 30 and 31 in more detail; all available from £720.00 each on Welling’s artist page here.
ANGIE DAVEY
Creative Director
 
JAMES WELLING JAMES WELLING
21 (1998) 31 (1998)
 
 
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