On Sunday December 15, 3pm, photographer Avelina Crespo leads a tour in Spanish of The Mind on Fire a solo exhibition by James Welling at the Contemporary Art Gallery. www.contemporaryartgallery.ca
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents a major solo exhibition of early work by American artist James Welling.
Welling emerged as a seminal figure in the “Pictures Generation”, an influential group of artists including Sherrie Levine, Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince. Working in New York in the late 1970s and early 1980s, they were acclaimed for their pioneering use of photography and for opening up a new set of questions about art and the nature of representation. This exhibition, and the publication that accompanies it, are titled The Mind on Fire to evoke a febrile moment of energy, thought and production from that time.
Throughout the period of The Mind on Fire, painting remained a resource to Welling; his interest in scale, surface, materiality, tactility and process evolved directly from his engagement with small paintings that preceded his photographic work. These qualities came to the fore in the solo exhibitions at Metro Pictures and Cash/Newhouse in New York in 1981, 1982 and 1985, and in theAluminum Foils, Drapes, High Contrast, Gelatin and Tile Photographs. Now seen as major works, minutely crumpled aluminium foil evokes starry skies or lunar landscapes; luxurious drapes sprinkled with dough suggest snow-capped mountain ridges. By focusing on simple, repetitive motifs Welling sought to remove photography from its subject, in order to trigger personal associations in the viewer and to explore how we see, rather than what we see. These works were frequently contact-printed to gain what Welling described as “a facsimile effect,” involving no enlargement from the negative. As Welling stated at the time, “the (small) image convinces me of its truth in a way larger images cannot.”
The exhibition and publication, Mind on Fire, brings together around one hundred of Welling’s early, experimental and abstract works from this period, statements which surround the mechanical and philosophical parameters of photography, being tested through a variety of photographic paper, film, cameras; materials in flux and subject to a myriad of simultaneous meanings.
This exhibition has been developed in partnership between MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, UK and Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea — CGAC, Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Special thanks also to David Zwirner, New York; Maureen Paley, London; Galeria Marta Cervera, Madrid; Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Galerie Nelson-Freeman, Paris.
We acknowledge the generous support of the U .S. Consulate General Vancouver and Capture Photography Festival.