David Zwirner is pleased to present Seascape (2017), a new film by James Welling at its 519 West 19th Street location. This will be the United States premiere of the work and the artist's seventh solo presentation at the gallery.
In Seascape, Welling combines his family's past with the histories of cinema, photography, and painting. The film is an homage to the artist’s grandfather, William C. Welling, who studied with the American Impressionist painter Wilson Irvine and corresponded with the seascape painter Frederick Waugh (1861-1940). Using the recently introduced Cine-Kodak Model B 16mm camera, Welling's grandfather shot the black-and-white reversal footage in the early 1930’s in Ogunquit, Maine, at the suggestion of Waugh. Over the course of two days, he filmed the Atlantic Ocean at Perkins Cove—which was a celebrated site for seascape painters—capturing images of the rocky coast, which he subsequently used as a basis for a 26 x 32 inch oil painting. For Seascape, Welling took digital color samples of his grandfather's painting and, working with three animators, colorized the original footage using After Effects and Photoshop. The audio component is a contribution from the artist’s brother, William B. Welling, a musician. The sound, which encompasses a slow, continuous progression of three chords with Foley effects, uses a 1940 "Gloria" accordion, as well as two drums—a 1826 Eli Brown replica snare drum made in 1990 with 32 beach pebbles placed on the drum head and a Remo "Ocean Drum." As a collaborative work between the artist, his grandfather, and his brother, the film, like Welling’s photographic series "Diary/Landscape" (1977-1986) and "Wyeth" (2010-2015), extends the artist's interest in incorporating autobiographical elements into his work.
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Welling explains, "45 years ago, I started thinking about that film [shot by Welling’s Grandfather in the 1920s and 30s]. . . It occurred to me that I could take the footage and digitally transform and colorize it. . . It was uncanny to work with my Grandfather’s material and feel it was almost a genetic predisposition to these sorts of images."
A clip from Seascape is shown here.
This photograph from 2017 revisits a series of works begun in 2006 which document Philip Johnson's iconic Glass House in Connecticut. Welling explains how the Glass House "seems like a conceptual sculpture, a gigantic lens in the landscape. When I realized I could make the glass red or add reflections to the face of this supposedly transparent house, my project became a laboratory for ideas about transparency, reflectivity, and color."
James Welling: Metamorphosis is a publication accompanying the artist’s first European survey exhibition, on view at Kunstforum Wien in Vienna through July 16. The exhibition was first presented at Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.) in Ghent, Belgium, in January 2017. The publication includes texts by Heike Eipeldauer and Martin Germann and an interview with Welling by Hal Foster. Published by S.M.A.K. | Prestel