12 February – 4 April 2003
From traditional gelatin silver prints to digitally processed prints, the exhibition demonstrates the remarkable diversity of Welling's photographic process. Welling's New Abstractions, included in the exhibition, were created in three phases: strips of bristol board were placed on photosensitive sheets and exposed to light, the resulting photograms were digitally scanned to make negatives, and photographs were produced from the negatives. Likewise, with the Mystery Photographs Welling made an abstracted photographic composition by enlarging and blurring small sections of a painter's palette. Here, Welling uses abstraction to continue his investigation of the formal qualities of photography. The medium-specificity of these works and their strict nonobjectivity have led some critics to link the works with the gestural practice of modernist painting. In her essay for catalogue accompanying the exhibition, Rosalyn Deutsche counters this reading:
Photography, and therefore knowledge and vision, for which photography serves as a figure, are vulnerable to endlessly repeated abstraction, where abstraction is a state in which both the photographed object and the clarity of the image are drawn or taken away...What distinguishes Welling's description of his work as a discourse - a use of language to talk about the world - from modernist interpretations of his art is that whereas for the latter photography, whether it is seen as arbitrary or motivated in relation to its referent, is canceled by the unity and stability of the aesthetic image, the basic premise of Welling's approach is that there can be no stability of image or subject.
She makes the important distinction between the manifest subject of Welling's work - the photographed object - and the latent subject, which is the viewer's quest for meaning in the image.
Born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1951, James Welling attended Carnegie-Mellon University and later the California Institute of the Arts where he completed his MFA. He has had solo exhibitions at the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany (1999), the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (1998), and the Kunstmuseum Lucerne (1998). Welling was awarded an artist fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1985, participated in Documenta IX in Kassel, Germany (1992), and was the subject of a traveling retrospective organized by the Wexner Center, Columbus, Ohio (2000). James Welling lives and works in Los Angeles.
A 124-page catalogue accompanies the exhibition. It contains an essay by Rosalyn Deutsche, and 57 reproductions of Welling's photographs, and may be purchased from the Art Gallery of York University bookstore for $49.00.
Support for this collaborative exhibition with the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, has been provided by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council.
James Welling will meet the public on Wednesday November 13 at 6:30, when he will discuss various aspects of his work in the gallery.
Contemporary Gallery Tour
Please join us on Sunday February 2, 2003 for a free guided tour of James Welling Abstract at the AGYU and SLIP: Mark Gomes, Ginette Legaré at the Koffler Gallery. Bus departs from the main entrance of the Ontario College of Art and Design, 100 McCaul St at 1:00, and returns around 4:00. Seats are limited, please call 416-736-5169 to reserve.