James Welling - Metamorphosis
What you see isn't what you really get.
There is something else—the effect of photography.
According to curator Heike Eipeldauer, to an unsuspecting visitor it would seem implausible that a single artist could have created such a diverse and wide-ranging oeuvre like James Welling did. This first personal retrospective oft the artist in Austria at Bank Austria Kunstforum has been prepared in collaboration with the Stedelijk Museum in Gent.
James Welling (*1951, Hartford/Connecticut) is regarded as one of the most imporant contemporary photographers. His career in photography started only after studying painting in Pittsburgh, where he studied modern dance as well, after encounters with John Cage and the choreographer Merce Cunningham. Later, at the CalArts Studio in Los Angeles, he focused mainly on video art before discovering photography, inspired by the work of photographers like Walker Evans, Paul Strand and especially Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. As a photographer, Welling was an autodidact.
In 1978 he moved to New York where he had his first successful exhibitions in the early 1980ies, among others with his series Aluminium Foil and Drapes. In 1995, Welling moved to California where he accepted a professorship for photography at the UCLA.
His work has been influential for many photographers of following generations, His work was exhibited in a number of solo and group exhibitions in the US, Japan and Europe, among others at the Documentsa IX in 1992 or the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York. In Europe there have been relatively few exhibitions, this is his first comprehensive retrospective in Austria.
In his photographs, Welling explores the conventions of phtography as a medium and ist original role for documentation. Especially in the early work series the recognition factor of everyday objects are subjected to formal abstractions by means of light and fragmentation.
Welling integrates the subjective dispositions of the viewer in the aesthetic experience. His work transcends boundaries and genres, oscillating between painting, photography, dance, sculpture, architecture and film. He continually puts the limitations and principles of the medium to the test, radically transforming his imagery, like in the case of the „Photograms“, where objects are placed on the paper during exposure, or the Degradés, (1986–2006), inspired by Mark Rothko’s abstract painting.
Beginning in the 1970ies, the manifold changes and developments in Welling’s work can be observed by the viewer in the Kunstforum’s exhibition. The artist even includes personal aspects in hisn work, like his great great grandmother’s diary from 1840/41, or film material of his grandfather, a painter, in the video Seascape (2015). (written by Cem Angeli)
James Welling, 5. May until 16. July, Bank Austria Kunstforum, Freyung 8, Wien 1, daily 10–19h, Fr. 10–21h.