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05.05.2017 - 16.07.2017
James Welling (b. 1951, Hartford/Connecticut) is renowned as one of the pioneers of international contemporary photography. His work is characterised by its experiment and radical stylistic diversity; it unfolds in the liminal zones between photography and painting, film, architecture, sculpture and dance. While James Welling’s works tour through the leading USA museums, as yet he has seldom been seen in Europe. The exhibition in the Bank Austria Kunstforum launches out from the 1970s and presents a selection of Welling’s picture series, reflecting the fundamental change in photography in recent decades.
In sounding out the medium’s aesthetic and conceptual basics, Welling’s photography jumps continually from image to the material, from the process to the result, from physicality to reproduction, and back again. The phenomenon of the painterly element in contemporary photography in the German-speaking regions is mostly discussed from the perspective of the Düsseldorf school of photography (also known as Becher School) and its proponents Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff & co; but by focusing on the American “post-modern Modernist” James Welling, the exhibition opens up another frame of reference: his formal abstractions unite the documentary aesthetics and media-specific matter of straight photography – as represented in Paul Strand or Edward Weston – with the American Realism of Edward Hopper or Andrew Wyeth, and a specific handling of colour aligned to the pictorial tradition of the West Coast. At the same time, it connects up with the critical, post-modern debates current in the Pictures Generation scene in the early 1980s on the concepts of authorship, originality and representation. In talking about (other) media, Welling’s photographic practice is so to speak that of a “ventriloquist”, as he himself once called it.
The exhibition is organised in cooperation with the S.M.A.K. in Ghent, Belgium.
Martin Germann (S.M.A.K., Gent)
S.M.A.K. in Gent, Belgien
04/10/2017 - 28/01/2018