Tuesdays, February 21st—March 28th | 7:00 pm
PENUMBRA ARTIST SERIES SPRING 2017
Short interviews by Giada De Agostinis*
Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 | 7:00 pm
Farrah Karapetian makes photography physical. Her work "marries two traditions in photography — that of the staged picture and of the image made without a camera" (LA Times 2015.) Her photograms and the sculptural negatives she makes en route to their exposure move in and out of abstraction and figuration and "disrupt and call attention to our era’s deeply entrenched response of permitting the constant newsfeed of documentary to slide by us as political ephemera"(Georgia Review 2015.) Her work is in public collections that include the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco. She has had multiple solo exhibitions and is represented by Von Lintel Gallery (Los Angeles, CA) and Danziger Gallery (New York, NY.) Current exhibitions include A Matter of Memory, George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY (2016); The Surface of Things, Houston Center for Photography (2016); and About Time: Photography in a Moment of Change, SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA (2016.)
As a student, or even before or after, how did you start developing your passion for photograms? What inspired you earlier in your life to choose this path as your visual language?
I was inspired to make this photogram by two things: finding in the New York Times a documentary photograph of a house blown apart by a hurricane, and thinking about the notion of shape as form in high Modernist painting. My formal practice evolves in the service of meta-narratives about the dissemination of culture. What news do we see, how do we usually see it, how can I spend more time with it, and how can my work motivate you to do the same? Photography is such a physical medium. You can't do it sitting down. I am fascinated by how photography makes me move, and how I can use it to make other people move as well.
Some of your work (specifically Soundscapes, Shape of Sound and Cymbalscapes) is clearly influenced by music: what is your relationship to it? What do you like to listen?
Leo Tolstoy opens Anna Karenina with the line, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Think about this in terms of constants and variables in art-making: any accident or conflict, if you pay attention to it, can be productive. By "pay attention", I mean that one has to a) set up parameters and have expectations; b) notice that something has occurred that was not what one intended; and c) decide whether or not to pursue the unintended consequence of accident and incorporate it into a new set of parameters. As much as photographers usually like to talk about technique and anecdote, what they're really talking about is the medium's steadiest bed fellows: chance and control.
How has California influenced your practice? is there a place or a museum you always come back to as it affects your vision or you're emotionally bound to it?
I make negatives, but I always want the way that I do that to be significant. There are no defaults left for long in my practice. Any one material means something: glass is vulnerable, the photograph has a reputation for facticity, resin has something to do with history, and so on. Here is a negative I made out of glass and steel, using the logic of light to describe a linear shadow on the wall from the drumset's armature and a volumetric one from its cymbals. Moholy Nagy made sculptural negatives too. Mine just have reference points embedded in their abstract arguments. The referent gives you somewhere to start before you spin out alongside me in a body of work.
Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 | 7:00 pm
Young Suh lives and works in Albany (in the San Francisco Bay Area, California). His photographic work addresses the complex nature of the human involvement in managing natural resources and the shifting concepts of nature in the contemporary society. Over the last 12 years he has completed two major projects, “Instant Traveler” and “Wildfires.” He had solo exhibitions with Haines Gallery, San Francisco, Center for Contemporary Art, Sacramento, Clifford Smith Gallery, Boston, and Gallery ON, Seoul, Korea. His work was also shown at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and Seoul International Photography Festival. His latest work has been exhibited at Mills College Art Museum. It is titled “Can We Live Here? Stories from a Difficult World,” a multimedia exhibition of photography, video, and performance created in collaboration with poet Katie Peterson. He is currently Associate Professor and Co-Chair of Department of Art and Art History at University of California, Davis.
Can you talk about who inspired you in your earlier career? Is there a photographer or a painter you get inspiration from?
I love Robert Frank, not just the famous book, The Americans, a classic of both photography and American road trip literature, but the whole career, including the strange films like Me and My Brother. I don’t think Frank ever really worked around the idea of a “project” and at least right now I don’t want to do that kind of work – even in The Americans he gets distracted a lot. The book is actually one long distraction from one place to another. Frank brings art into life – he considers the two at the same time, and he lets the pictures get messy as his life gets messy. Nan Goldin and Alex Soth are photographers I admire for the same reason, though they led far more exciting lives than I ever do.
Your projects, facing environmental issues, reveal a suspended narrative between dream and catastrophe, could you tell us more about it? What makes you choose these themes? What is your own relationship to nature?
Nature terrifies me. My wife is from California and she loves open spaces and the mountains and feels safe in them. I don’t – the American West fills me with fear and something like the National Parks makes me feel apprehensive, because it marks the land with some idea that we could mythologize it, control it. At first, when I was photographing parks and wildfires, I was interested in how humans tried to control nature. This is a major issue during a time when climate change has shown us exactly how human activity has raised the temperature of the planet. Images of people struggling in nature are still compelling to me, but I’ve gotten less interested in people trying to control it than in those times when people are at the mercy of it. We humans are not yet in control of nature completely. So I got interested in taking pictures of people with animals, for example, because I wanted to see what people looked like when they weren’t in control. We should preserve those experiences, value them, and investigate them.
How California and Korea influenced the use of light in your photography?
In California there is too much of it and in Korea, a winter country at a slightly higher latitude, there is not enough. I have noticed in my pictures I either have a surfeit of light (for example, trying to fit a fire into an already-hot day, or icy glaciers against a slate-gray sky) or a lack of it (I made a film once of the lights of a ferryboat at night slowly going off). I’m a moody person and I like dramatic extremes of light, and in California you notice that in ordinary situations. Light is the opera of our lives in California – people say that this is a “chill” state but the intensity of light never tells us to calm down the way, say, a Northeastern winter day does.
Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 | 7:00 pm
Abelardo Morell was born in Havana, Cuba in 1948. Morell received his MFA from The Yale University School of Art in 1981.
His publications include a photographic illustration of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1998) by Dutton Children’s Books, A Camera in a Room (1995) by Smithsonian Press, A Book of Books (2002), Camera Obscura (2004) by Bulfinch Press and Abelardo Morell (2005), published by Phaidon Press.
His work has been collected and shown in many galleries, institutions and museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York, The Chicago Art Institute, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Houston Museum of Art, The Boston Museum of Fine Art, The Victoria & Albert Museum and over seventy other museums in the United States and abroad.
Your images made with the camera oscura technique made us explore different worlds, entering an oneiric imagery. How do you choose the interiors where you set up the camera when you're travelling? Could you tell us more about the process and the whole experience of setting this up or how it has evolved throughout the years?
Usually I find a view that I want to enter a room- that’s the most important part- finding a place with a room is secondary but the qualities of the space matters too. Often, the architectural details of a room really work well with the incoming image.
Because I use a digital camera my exposures now have gone from hours to a couple of minutes. These shorter exposures can capture more specific moments of light events which I like very much- It’s nice to actually see clouds in these rooms.
You have a show opening in New York on March 9 called Flowers for Lisa, a romantic homage to your partner. How has this relationship influenced your practice and creativity?
Lisa and I have been together for 40 years. In a way these flower pictures serve as a poetic narrative of our life together and the many events - good and not so good - that we have shared.
Your vision seems to be very much imbued by painting. We see a lot of contaminations from art movements such as surrealism and impressionism in your photographs. But you also use your own painting to create images. Could you tell us more about this intertwined relation between painting and photography?
I have always loved paintings. Because I don’t really have much skill in drawing or painting I have felt insecure making art that way. With the Flowers For Lisa project and the Cliché Verre work I have ventured into the painting territory and combining it with photographic information. I would say that I’m interested in the sort of hybrid these two media make.
Tuesday, April 4th, 2017 | 7:00 pm (previously scheduled for Tuesday, March 14th, 2017). Due to the impending snowstorm, we have rescheduled this lecture.
Bryan Graf navigates the photographic medium with a discursive interest in the history of photography and it’s relationship to design, painting, and narrative fiction. His practice involves mixing tracks (or prints) that have visceral, optical and conceptual relationships with each another.
Recent solo shows include The Sun Room at Yancey Richardson, New York, NY and Moving Across The Interior at Halsey Mckay, East hampton, NY. Grafʼs work has recently been featured in Second Nature: Abstract Photography Then and Now at the Decordova Sculpture Park and Museum, and The Polaroid Years: Instant Photography and Experimentation at the Loeb Art Center at Vassar College. Grafʼs work has appeared in numerous publications, including Blind Spot, Harpers and The New York Times.
He has published three books: Wildlife Analysis (Conveyor, 2013), Moving Across the Interior (ICA@MECA, 2014), and Prismatic Tracks (Conveyor, 2014). He is a 2016 grant recipient from The Pollock-Krasner Foundation.
I read you started doing photography with your friends while skateboarding. Could you tell us more about those days? What drove you to take the camera?
It was a pretty causal way to get into photography. I was more interested in skateboarding than photography at the time. As a lot of kids growing up in the 90’s did, I used those disposable film cameras to photograph my friends while we were skateboarding and hanging out. After a while I became more and more interested in photography and started making it a priority to wander around and shoot.
A lot of your photography plays around the idea that images should not lead viewers to any conclusion, but rather be a way to explore their feelings. How much do you let your own feelings filter into your working process?
It’s not so much about ‘feelings’ as it is about firmly believing that prescribing a precise content for viewers to receive and digest is not productive, or interesting. I’m not a doctor, I’m not here to give you a pill to swallow which encapsulates a finite and preconceived reception for my work. I’m much more interested in my photographs being pieces of persuasion, and that the content derived from the work is a subjective, personal experience that can vary from person to person. I believe that content is cumulative and can come from the tension, or debris, between images more so than individual images.
Is there a contemporary artist (not necessarily in photography) who is a current inspiration for your work?
My friends Gregory Halpern and Curran Hatleberg always amaze me with their ability to infuse a poetic tone with razor sharp observations that build over time to form these complex, multi-layered tomes that I find are akin to the narratives, and economy of description, found in short stories by Raymond Carver and Joan Didion.
Tuesday, March 21st, 2017 | 7:00 pm
Lauren Semivan (b. 1981) was born in Detroit, Michigan. She holds a BA from Lawrence University and an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at many galleries and museums including the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, The Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography, The Griffin Museum of Photography, The Hunterdon Art Museum, and Cranbrook Art Museum. She has been a finalist for The John Gutmann Photography Fellowship, and SF Camerawork’s Baum Award for Emerging Photographers. Her work was recently published in Black Forest: Four Visual Poems (Candela Books, 2014) and has appeared in The New Yorker, Artforum, and Photograph magazines. Semivan’s work is part of permanent collections at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Cranbrook Art Museum, and the Wriston Art Galleries at Lawrence University. She lives and works in Detroit, MI, and is represented by Benrubi Gallery in New York, and David Klein Gallery in Detroit. Her second solo exhibition with Benrubi Gallery opens this June.
What led you to photography? How did you start?
I studied music (violin) from an early age but became frustrated with restrictive interpretations of classical repertoire.
I discovered the large format view camera while studying with John Shimon and Julie Lindemann at Lawrence University. The view camera felt primitive but complex at the same time like the violin. I became fascinated with the idea that in photography you could make your own world in which anything could happen or exist. I think the experience of studying music so intensely has greatly informed the way that I work. This particular image was one of the earliest I made using the studio wall as a backdrop. I thought of these early pictures as etudes.
You often gather items from your daily life and let them be part of your photographs. What is your relationship to these objects? How do they become part of your practice? Or how do you relate to them when you're shooting?
I am drawn to specific objects for their abstract interpretive potential. I take walks in my neighborhood with no specific thought in mind, but poetic relationships between concepts or ideas and objects I encounter reveal themselves to me. Then try to incorporate them into an image. I can relate it to the surrealists and objective chance. In Nadja, Andre Breton talks about objects or events presenting a signal. Sometimes I am drawn to objects first for their photogenic qualities, and then more significant meaning reveals itself in the context of the other elements within the photograph.
In your Observatory project, you state that "Knowing and feeling are not separate" and also that your work "draws upon a tension that exists between irrational and physical worlds." Could you tell us more about this?
I rely on my intuition when I am working, and I consider the things that we feel or sense just as important as what we know empirically or quantitatively as fact. Both are physical in some way or another, and this is what connects art and science. I am continually seeking out knowledge of myself and my experiences through my own environment and through metaphor, even though I may not know exactly what it is I am doing at the time, the act of looking and seeking meaning in the first place feels like the more important part.
Tuesday, March 28th, 2017 | 7:00 pm
Gregory Halpern has exhibited internationally and published four books of photographs, including ZZYZX (Mack, 2016), A (J&L Books, 2011), Omaha Sketchbook (J&L Books, 2009) and East of the Sun, West of the Moon (Études, 2014), a collaboration with Ahndraya Parlato. He is also the editor, along with Jason Fulford, of The Photographer’s Playbook: Over 250 Assignments and Ideas (Aperture, 2014). He holds a BA in History and Literature from Harvard University and an MFA from California College of the Arts. The Paris Photo/Aperture Foundation voted ZZYZX Photobook of the Year in 2016, and in 2014 he was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.
You've been working and shooting in many cities and areas in America, but we have seen a work of your own hometown Buffalo only recently published in the latest Aperture issue American Destiny. What is your relationship to Buffalo? How has the city informed and affected your work or your destiny as a photographer throughout these years?
The place is deeply a part of me and shapes, in many ways, how I see the world. The city’s population is half of what it was at its peak, and although there has been something of an urban resurgence (a Brooklynization, if you will, in small pockets) a huge portion of city remains plagued by abandonment and joblessness. The art world and academia operate largely outside of, and insulated from, those realities. I should say that while I feel connected to the place and defensive of it, I’m not entirely of it, and certainly not anymore. When I go back now, I vacillate between feeling completely out of place, while simultaneously at home.
Many of your works are the result of fruitful collaborations, as with Jason Fulford, and with your partner hndraya Parlato. Could you talk more about these collaborations and how your practice changes or gets influenced when you are working with other people?
Ahndraya and Jason have had major impacts on my work; they have helped me arrive at final edits, and have helped me see the work more clearly while it was still in-progress. I don’t work in a vacuum, and I’m open to what others see in my work, especially if I trust their judgement as artists. So I think to some degree, the influence of Jason’s playfulness, or of Ahndraya’s surrealism, for example, has shown up in my own work, much to the work’s benefit I think.
In all of your works, your images talk through symbols, sometimes aggressive sometimes dreamy, always leaving the viewer to imagine what's behind them. Could you talk more about your personal experience in California which is the subject of your latest work ZZYZX?
My personal experience with California began with that great American tradition of driving there (from the East Coast)…. Romantic, cliché, and nonetheless perfect… It’s like being driven by a desire, towards an idea, fleeing something, discovering your country, yourself and your place in it…. Later, I moved to California for graduate school (fleeing my East Coast undergraduate experience at Harvard and hoping, maybe to recreate myself in a place, like so many others try in California, a place without the weight of history, or at least with a healthy disrespect for it)… I chose CCA because Larry Sultan taught there. Larry was, as much as anything, a California artist and really a Southern California artist (in spirit) even though he lived in San Francisco. Anyway, it took me years before I felt like I was able to make successful pictures in there. Beginning in 2006, after I had moved back East, I started flying out to California about once a year to photograph. I started spending increasingly more time each year, starting off with a couple weeks, eventually staying for a month or more, and then finally moving back out there for a year when I got a Guggenheim complete this project…
* Giada De Agostinis is a freelance editor. She earned an MA in Publishing from Oxford Brookes University and divides her time between the Aperture Foundation and Paper Journal's editorial departments.
AN EVENING WITH ANDREA MODICA & LARRY FINK
Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 | 7:00 pm
Andrea Modica was born in New York City and lives in Philadelphia, where she works as a photographer and teaches at Drexel University and the International Center of Photography. A graduate of the Yale School of Art, she is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fulbright Scholar and the recipient of a Knight Award. Modica has exhibited extensively and has had solo exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts.
Her publications include Treadwell (Chronicle Books, 1996), Human Being (Nazraeli Press, 2001), Barbara (Nazraeli Press, 2002), Fountain (Stinehour Editions, 2008), L’amico del cuore (Nazraeli Press, 2014) and As We Wait (L'Artiere, 2015).
Andrea Modica’s photographs are part of the permanent collections of numerous institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the International Museum of Photography and Film at the George Eastman House, and the Bibliotheque Nationale.
Besides working as a professional photographer for over fifty-five years, Larry Fink has had one-man shows at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of Modern Art amongst others. On the European continent, he has had one-man shows at the Musee de l’Elysee in Lausanne, Switzerland and the Musee de la Photographie in Charleroi, Belgium. He has been awarded two John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships and two National Endowment for the Arts, Individual Photography Fellowships. He has been teaching for over fifty-two years, with professorial positions held at Yale University, Cooper Union, and lastly at Bard College, where he is an honored professor.
Any changes to the program will be announced online.
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