UMBRA, geography of the shadow.
I am visual bilingual, I see in Abstract, and Image. Combining the language of painting and the language of photography one has left the territory of clear distinctions. I want to dissolve the everyday in the river of forgetfulness and arrive on the opposite bank, far from the center; landing at a new place. In looking at our visual landscape I choose elements that add up to a new whole, a visual harmony of “rhyming” shapes creating a visual syntax to view our times. This recombination of diverse elements gives me a place to see our world in a new way. My experience of growing up in Southern California with the work of Karl Benjamin, and John McLaughlin among others was a rich introduction to the abstract painting of this time.
The shapes are based on two-dimensional primary forms; in my case I relate them to an active perceptual mode, inherent in human conscious. As an example these primary forms are evident in the geometric shapes and drawings as far back as the European Paleolithic, and in the art of the prehistoric North American Indians of the Southwest. These last two areas are well documented in earlier work of mine in the 80’s and 90’s.
The shapes and forms are often referred to as “minimal art”, considered reductive, empty, repetitious, uninflected. This fits well in the event horizon of Paris 1865 – New York 1965. If one lifts ones eyes to a longer time line and a larger view of history these shapes are essential, primary, and full of meaning. They are used through out history to signify change, and presence.
The Umbra series are B & W gelatin prints. The landscapes are photographed thru out Southern California. In the darkroom, paper masks are cut specific to each image. These masks are used to allow seperate exposures in any area I select creating gray tones to a solid black. The masks can also be used to block light from reaching the photographic paper, creating a pure white.
Reality is the currency of photography. All the new mediums since photography including photography, have been reality-based. For the last half-century this quality of reality has been called into question and artists have provoked and worked to undermine this assumption. But the condition of all these new mediums is that we see reality as the underlying assumption, in that these mediums see further than the eye, clearer than the eye, more distant than the eye, and allow for motion and time sequences. We need only to think of the possibility that if we had a snapshot of the crucifixion certainly the last 2000 years of history would’ve played out differently.
The zenith of this reality-based photographic approach was developed on the West Coast of the Western World in works such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston; whether they are fetishizing a mountain range or a bell pepper, the detailed visual reality presenting their verisimilitude is paramount.
In a contemporary context the landscape was removed from the photograph and artist dealt directly within the environment: Heiser’s double negative, Smithson’s spiral jetty. These pieces are a static interjection into the landscape seen by very few people in person but experienced by thousands through the photographic medium. It is interesting to note that Smithson's spiral jetty has become reenergized thru the motion of water where it was submerged after the rains only to reemerge with the Western United States drought in the ought’s. With new photographs showing its reemergence.
Vision is the currency of the desert. The clarity in the light is well attested to in religions and in our arts, and as a pond is to the ocean so is a dry lake bed to the desert, the dry lake bed further refining vision, seeing even further, and experiencing a binary quality of earth and sky with only yourself as the medium, a visual home of creation, on a true tabula rasa.
In my Umber series I wanted to combine the realities of photography and the possibilities of abstraction. In this series architecture was the primary background, the reality if you will, for me to impose and play with the abstract shapes. In the El Mirage series I want to take it further and build reality, capture my own time/movement, reveal my own performance, conceptualizing creation, and creating my own architecture. The series involved two performances one with metal, and one with glass. Metal being the first activity (etching plates) that I would throw in the air and photograph them as they fell. Marking off an area in this infinite space, I performed this dance performance, using the metal plates trying to hit this area, having them come within the framework, within this limitation.