PhotoPlay: Lucid Objects

One artist ignites gunpowder on photographic paper. Others piece sections of an image together with adhesive tape. Another digitally reconciles multiple views of one still life.

Artists “working at the edges” of photography as we typically know it take the spotlight in J.P. Morgan’s Paris Photo exhibition, PhotoPlay: Lucid Objects.

The vision of Mark S. Roe, Head Curator of the JPMorgan Chase Art Collection, Lucid Objects showcases works by artists who, in the words of pioneering photographer Robert Heinecken, are “moving beyond recreating images of the world and creating objects in the world.”

The roots of invention

Faced with the proliferation of digital images, artists are going back to photography’s pioneers. “Early photographers such as William Henry Fox Talbot and Louis-Jacques Daguerre were inventors and tinkerers,” Mr. Roe says. “They discovered other things you could do with the processes and materials of photography, including manipulating or overlapping negatives and hand coloring.”

“Artists today are rediscovering the possibilities of photography as a medium and not simply as analog reproductions of the world.”

Horses’ heads, reimagined

Lucid Objects draws on the last 15 years of acquisitions for the JPMorgan Chase Art Collection, with a few glances back at works from the 1970s and 80s.

For Horses (1986), brothers Mike and Doug Starn cut up prints from a single image and then reassembled the pieces with adhesive tape. They then placed the finished work in a conspicuously thick, oversized frame, an anachronistic approach for the 1980s.

Horses, 1986, Doug and Mike Starn (American, born 1961), Gelatin silver print, 13 3/8 x 23 1/2 inches (34 x 59.7 cm), JPMorgan Chase Art Collection © 2017 Doug and Mike Starn/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The result is a “sculptural construction of the image of the horses’ heads whose tactile quality most impresses us,” Mr. Roe says. “The pieces, the tape, the outlandish frame—all of this together creates a different kind of object than simply a reflection of the world.”

Multiple viewpoints

In a new work, In the Light and Shadow of Morandi (2017), Los Angeles photographer Uta Barth takes a similar approach to the study of light and subject as that of painter Giorgio Morandi (Italian, 1890–1964). Throughout his career, Mr. Morandi almost exclusively painted still lives of objects in his home in Bologna, Italy.

In her homage to Mr. Morandi, Ms. Barth took photographs of objects in her home from multiple angles under various conditions of light and shadow. Working digitally, she then merged and reconciled all of the different perspectives into a single frontal image.

In the Light & Shadow of Morandi, 2017, Uta Barth (American, born Germany, 1958), Archival pigment print in artist frame, 48 3/4 x 52 3/4 x 2 inches (123.8 x 134 x 5.1 cm), JPMorgan Chase Art Collection © Uta Barth, Courtesy Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

“In the particular series from which this work is taken, Ms. Barth is exploring different perspectives that all get merged into a single point of view,” Mr. Roe says. Ms. Barth also added a sculptural dimension by printing the image on a panel and placing that—with its irregular outline—within a frame, emphasizing its object-like qualities.

A different type of flash

Some of the artists in Lucid Objects expand our ideas about photography by extending the photograph into three dimensions. Others eliminate traditional photographic processes altogether.

For his Ouroboros series, Phoenix-based Christopher Colville went into the Sonoran Desert on moonless nights, placed gunpowder on photosensitive paper and ignited it. The small explosion created the “Ouroboros” image, the ancient symbol for wholeness or infinity.

Ouroboros, 7, 2016, Unique gunpowder-generated gelatin silver print, 32 x 24 1/2 inches (81.3 x 62.2 cm), JPMorgan Chase Art Collection © Christopher Colville, Courtesy of Rick Wester Fine Art, New York

“There’s, no darkroom, no camera, this is all produced in an almost ritualistic performance in the Arizona desert,” says Mr. Roe.

The vision enlarges

“People may be surprised by this year’s exhibition because a lot of the works may not strike them as photographic at all,” says Mr. Roe.

In addition to works that extend into three-dimensional space, Lucid Objects will include video, works installed on the floor and one projected onto a wall.

“Artists are following their vision wherever it takes them,” Mr. Roe says. “And as often happens with innovators, people follow and the vision of photography enlarges.”

To learn more about the JPMorgan Chase Art Collection or to discuss how your art collection fits into your overall wealth planning, please contact your J.P. Morgan representative.

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