Thursday, November 28, 2013

Grayscale Winner: Michael Donnor

The photographs of Juror’s Choice winner Michael Donnor are glimpses into his subconscious, fragments from a vivid recurring dream. Both his winning image, In It’s Right Place and another selected image, Which One Is Sane, are part of the larger series, Manifesting Infinity: A Paper Cosmos. This project explores photography’s relationship to truth, time, and space. Donnor’s photographs challenge perception of what is and is not real in a medium invented to record. “Viewers want to believe what a photograph shows, yet my imagery subverts the perception a viewer has for the medium of photography. It reveals to the viewer, there exists no relic of truth in a photograph.”

In It's Right Place 

Donnor prefers to forgo pre-visualized imagery and to instead allow his artistic process unfold organically. The first step often begins with a phrase or title and the accompanying images develop intuitively. His process is non-linear: each step is disjointed and unrelated to the next. After an image is made, Donnor spends considerable time reflecting on what he is trying to convey through it. He then makes a series of marks directly on to the negative to demonstrate the subtext of the piece. A final image is then printed in silver gelatin, heavily toned with selenium, and coated with beeswax.

Broken Light

Now in his last year of Lesley University College of Art and Design’s MFA program, Donnor reflects on what his formal photography education has done for his artistic development.

Photographic education develops the theoretical and historical framework for an artist to understand their work. For an artist to continually advance and be an articulate voice within their time, the larger contextual understanding of what photography was, its relation within the visual art cannon, and what a photograph does, is paramount. I also believe though, our artwork is smarter than us. Just create, react, and respond intuitively. Education allows an artist to realize what they just did.

Little Birds

With a few album covers and other commercial projects on his resume, Donnor continues to seek these outlets for his work. He pursues a unitary vision for both his personal and commercial work. In expanding his audience outside of the fine art world, he creates commercial images that are true to his ideas and processes.

But of Course I'd Like to Stay

Donnor is open-minded and enthusiastic about the future of his work and his artistic career. He views success as being able to continue to create work that is “simultaneously aware, articulate, and completely grateful” to its place in the world.

Grayscale is on view through November 30, 2013.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Richard Hricko

This month we are exhibiting the work of Richard Hricko in conjunction with our show, Grayscale. We were first introduced to Hricko’s work when he showed in last year's alternative process exhibition, Methods (Alternative). We fell in love with the photogravures and their presentation and curated Richard Hricko, a solo exhibition.

Installation of Richard Hricko's work

The photogravure is an early photographic process and not widely practiced today. Why did you choose the photogravure for this project rather than a more traditional etching process? Walk us through the execution from photographing to the final print.

I have endeavored to master many processes within the broad category of Intaglio printmaking. Until a few years ago, my work depended upon hand drawn imagery and my interest in traditional, high quality plate making and hand printing processes. Photogravure was developed in the 19th century and, like etching, engraving, drypoint, mezzotint, and other printmaking techniques, is Intaglio printed. Intaglio prints are capable of achieving the most highly detailed images and the richest, most luminous range of tonal values of any medium. These visually qualities, the physical properties of the medium (the copper plate, ink, paper, and etching press, etc.), and the ability to integrate both hand made and photographic imagery attracted me to photogravure. Although photogravure is a historic, highly technical alternative photographic process, today it can also employ digital tools to create the initial image, further blurring the lines between print and photo, digital and hand made. Like my drawing-based works, I literally construct my photo-based images from various natural materials and found objects. These are photographed or scanned into the computer and printed on an inkjet printer as high resolution, continuous tone film positives. The rest of the process employs the very involved, original 19th century methods, which can require a couple of days to create a single image/plate.

Locust I on view

The following is a basic description of the photogravure plate/printmaking process:
A paper-backed gelatin sheet is made light sensitive in the darkroom. The full-size continuous tone positive is placed in contact with the sensitized gelatin and exposed to ultraviolet light in a vacuum exposure unit. The light sensitive gelatin hardens under the influence of ultraviolet light in proportion to the amount of the light it receives through the film positive image. The exposed gelatin is adhered to a copper plate and developed in warm water. The warm water releases the backing paper and dissolves the unexposed unhardened gelatin. The remaining gelatin on the copper plate will act as the etching resist. A rosin dust grain is melted onto the dried gelatin (other aquatint methods using a mezzotint screen are also possible). The plate is then etched in a series of ferric chloride baths of various strengths. The amount of water in each solution controls the speed at which the plate etches. During this process, the thinnest areas in the gelatin (the shadow areas) start to etch first. Once the plate has been etched to completion, the gelatin is washed off the plate. Like traditional intaglio printing, oil based ink is applied to the plate and the surface is wiped clean, leaving ink behind in the etched portions of the plate. The deeper the mark is etched into the plate, the more ink it holds and, consequently, the darker it prints. The ink is transferred on an etching press to heavy printing paper that has been softened with water.

Clematis I

Much of your work incorporates nature as subject. Tell us how and why you are influenced by the natural world. This work is visually dark and a bit unsettling in its subtle chaos. Tell us more about the evolution of this project.

My studio work draws upon the observation, invention, and integration of details from natural and built environments. This direction is rooted in a rural childhood experience, exploring the surrounding woods and encountering its many histories and mysteries. It has evolved to include a fascination with both my contemporary urban experience and the historic tradition of “ruins” in Italian art, as exemplified by the mid-18th century “Capriccio” series of etchings by Piranesi. My recent photogravures are part of an on-going “urban growth” series – soft, organic life that survives and even thrives in the hard, chaotic environment of concrete, asphalt, and architecture.

Root I

Printmaking is your primary medium. What was the impetus for adding a photographic element to your work?

I have grown most as an artist through my ability to renew my focus and adapt to various new ideas, experiences, and environments over an extended career. I consider myself a printmaker who employs many tools, including some associated with photography. Tools are at the service of the idea and finding those tools that best enhance and strengthen the content of a given work is the challenge. My idea behind the image, its subject, and construction are relatively constant, whether I’m using a pencil, etching needle, or scanner. Very fine detail and a strong sense of atmosphere and mystery are also consistent qualities in my work. The photogravure allows me to achieve a heightened attention to such qualities that other processes do not always offer.

Growth I

You are the department chair for Printmaking at Tyler School for the Art. How has teaching influenced your work?

Teaching has had a major impact upon my work. I have amazing students and their youthful energy, enthusiasm, and constant questioning is contagious. They ensure that I am always searching for effective ways to teach new and interesting printmaking processes, which in turn continues to drive my own exploration of idea and process. A part of discovering and honing in on the process of the photogravure was also learning how to best share this historic process with my students.

Snow III

Finally, we ask this of all of our artists, how do you define success in art?

For myself, the ability to consistently maintain and advance my studio practice is the greatest measure of success. Successful practice means going to the studio every day and just putting in the time, whether or not the work of that particular day is successful. If my studio practice is really strong, opportunities for communication, through the exhibition and distribution of the work, and other means of support, such as grants and residencies, will follow.

Richard Hrickos's work is on view at The Kiernan Gallery through November 30. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

FotoWeek DC - Francis Crisafio

Earlier in November I had the privilege of attending FotoWeek DC portfolio reviews.  For the next few weeks I will be sharing the work of several photographers whose portfolios I reviewed.

I had seen Francis Crisafio’s work prior to meeting him at the review. His body of work Hold Up in the Hood has been exhibited in group exhibitions across the country including Filter Photo Festival in Chicago and The Fence project in Brooklyn, and has been making the rounds online. Francis presented a large selection of loose prints from different aspects of the project. There was a lot of work to go through, but since he was discussing the project as existing in book form, the larger edit made for a great discussion about what the book might encompass and how to select image for an exhibition when the book is finally published. We discussed independent publishers and possible venues where he could exhibit the work.

Artist statement for Hold Up in the Hood

HOLDUP in the HOOD is a body of work that documents an after-school arts program I co-authored and teach to inner city children in the Manchester section of Pittsburgh, PA.  The program and my documentation have run successively for 10 years.

HOLDUP in the HOOD is both a personal and communal exploration of self that concerns the realization of making one’s mark. The focus of these photographs is on portraiture, both as an individual study and as a collective image. The subject matter incorporates drawings, re-cycled photographs and print media, as well as body gesture, to explore issues of race, class and gender.”

All images © Francis Crisafio

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

FotoWeek DC - Matthew Conboy

Earlier in November I had the privilege of attending FotoWeek DC portfolio reviews.  For the next few weeks I will be sharing the work of several photographers whose portfolios I reviewed.

Matthew Conboy presented a series he had been working on for ten years. The project, West South West, is highly conceptual and incorporates photography, statistics, and history. Matthew’s project was in its final stages of preparation before release. He came prepared with a concise and articulate explanation of his work and a selection of medium-sized loose prints for easy handling. We discussed a possible re-edit, connecting with his target audience, and strategies for marketing the work.

WSW 1930 (Greene County, IN) and WSW 1940 (Sullivan County, IN)

Artist statement for West South West:

The photographs from West South West document the mean centers of population that are plotted at the conclusion of every US Census. These are the locations where a map of the United States would be balanced if every person weighed the same.  These locations have progressively moved in a west-southwesterly direction from Kent County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 1790 to Texas County, Missouri in 2010. The consistent westerly shift of these population centers over the past 220 years evokes the power of the American Dream and the willingness of both citizens and immigrants alike to stake their lives, fortunes, and futures on opportunities located in Western and Border States.

I began this project in July 2001 and then enlisted in the Virginia Army National Guard.  Three weeks later, 9/11 happened and I spent more than 5 of the next 12 years on Active Duty.  In February 2013, I resigned from the Army and decided that now was the time to finish this project.  From July 26th-August 7th, 2013, I travelled more than 2600 miles photographing all 24 centers of population.

 WSW 1880 (39.06889 N 84.66111 W)

 WSW 1820 (Hardy County, WV)

WSW 1840 (Upshur County, WV)

WSW 1850 (Wirt County, WV)

WSW 1950 (Richland County, IL)

WSW 1940 (38.94833 N 87.37639 W)