Abstraction is a complicated endeavor for photography. How does one move towards pure form—the visible divorced from any content—in a medium that is understood to have a direct relationship with the subjects it records? In the early twentieth century, modern artists began to embrace an abstract visual language of line, shape, space, color, and texture. Since then, photographers have searched for the elusive answer to the question of how to create works that express emotions and ideas instead of the accurate depiction of reality natural to their medium. Some photographers compose the crop or frame of their image in such a way that the subject becomes unrecognizable, presented from an incomprehensible vantage point or as an unidentifiable detail. Others construct a subject for the camera to record or manipulate their materials, whether photographic paper and chemistry or digital pixels, to create images with no obvious associations. In such work, the reality of the subject recedes, if it never truly vanishes, allowing the visual expression of form to dominate.
The exhibition begins with a series of striking images by Aaron Siskind, who in the 1940s pioneered a style of photography that pushed the boundaries of photographic abstraction by isolating expressive contours in forms found in recognizable subjects—including the flat surfaces of graffitied walls, fragmentary posters, and rusted signs. Photographers Edward Burtynski and Marilyn Bridges make use of aerial views to amplify geometric forms and disorient the viewers. In Gabriel Martinez’s Tularosa ephemeral patterns of lights fall across a dark green ground, created by exposing x-ray film to trinitite (sand exposed to radiation by an atomic bomb). While Bill Jacobsen’s Place #512—recalls the modernist color experiments of Josef Albers.
This is the second in a series of exhibitions featuring recent additions to the photography collection. Focusing on abstract images made with the "inherently" documentary medium, the exhibition will include works by Berenice Abbott, Tom Baril, Marilyn Bridges, Edward Burtynsky, Christiane Feser, Jed Fielding, Bill Jacobson, Lauren Henkin, Dorothy Norman, Gabriel Martinez, Aaron Siskind, and Hiroshi Sugimoto.