James Welling is known for his peripatetic practice, using diverse strategies to produce works that are at times representational, at times abstract, and often, paradoxically, both. Welling harnesses the elemental components of photography—light, color, and movement—to produce distinctly original work, while remaining keenly aware of the medium’s history. His experimental approach and his sensitivity to the physical and technical properties of his medium has influenced an entire generation of younger artists.
0472 (2017) is included in a benefit exhibition in New York to support Thread, a Senegal-based non-profit established by The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. On view at the gallery's 19th Street space through July 21, 2017, this exhibition celebrates the project's two-year anniversary and includes artworks generously donated by 26 gallery artists, the proceeds of which will go directly to Thread. With this fundraiser, Thread will be able to establish an endowment so that it can operate in perpetuity in the region.
This photograph by James Welling is part of an ongoing series of works begun in 2006 which documents Philip Johnson's iconic Glass House built in 1949 in New Canaan, Connecticut. The series was produced using a digital camera, and its resulting images capture the architectural features of Johnson’s 47-acre compound. To achieve his luminous effects, the artist placed a variety of colored filters between lens and subject to introduce intense fields of color, transforming the image at the moment of exposure. Here, Welling continues to explore his longtime interest in using layering effects and filtering combinations to explore color phenomena and trichromatic (RGB) vision, the process by which our eyes and brain work together to perceive the visible spectrum.
The reflective, transparent façade of Johnson's diaphanous structure combines light, interior, and exterior to describe architectural space. Welling has elaborated on the physical and conceptual properties of his interventions, explaining how Johnson's "glass box […] 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."¹
¹ James Welling, in correspondence with the gallery, 2010.
Music composed and performed by William B. Welling
℗ © 2017 William B. Welling, Averill Park, NY USA
May 5–July 16
Kunstforum Wien presented James Welling's first major European survey, featuring a selection of works by the American artist from the early 1970s to the present. Welling's practice, which reflects fundamental changes in photography during recent decades, shuffles the elemental components of the medium to produce distinctly uncompromising work.
The exhibition traveled to Vienna from Ghent in Belgium, where it was presented at S.M.A.K. in January 2017. The exhibition is accompanied by a publication which includes texts by co-curators Heike Eipeldauer and Martin Germann and an interview with Welling by Hal Foster. Published by S.M.A.K. | Prestel
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 co-curators Heike Eipeldauer and Martin Germann and an interview with the artist by Hal Foster. Published by S.M.A.K. | Prestel
In 2014, James Welling was the recipient of the International Center of Photography’s (ICP) Infinity Award for Art.
Since 1985, the ICP Infinity Awards have recognized major contributions and emerging talent in the fields of photojournalism, art, fashion photography, and publishing. All proceeds from the Infinity Awards benefit ICP’s exhibition, education, community, and public programs.
Things Beyond Resemblance: James Welling Photographs
Presenting photographs from the artist's Wyeth series, Things Beyond Resemblance: James Welling Photographs included works created specifically for the exhibition.
Welling's engagement with particular places and histories is integral to his practice. The American artist Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) has been a formative influence on Welling's work since childhood. Welling stated, "I realized I had never stopped thinking about Wyeth. He had become a part of how I see." He began to study Wyeth again in the mid-2000s, traveling to Maine and Pennsylvania in search of some of the painter's former locations and subjects. In 2010, Welling initiated a series of color photographs inspired by his research, and 50 debuted in this show.
The photographs were shot on location in places where Wyeth painted throughout his life. The Kuerner Farm, a source of inspiration for Wyeth's work for over 70 years, is now part of Brandywine River Museum of Art. Welling also created site-specific installations on the grounds and in the historic properties attached to the museum. Entitled Gradients, these sculptures extended the project of Things Beyond Resemblance to the physical landscape that influenced both Welling and Wyeth.
The accompanying publication includes an interview with Welling by the curator Philipp Kaiser, and essays by Michael Fried, Suzanne Hudson, and Sharon Lockhart.
Published by Prestel
Read more: Welling in conversation with Alex Greenberger for ARTnews about the Wyeth series
Chicago Architecture Biennial
September 16, 2017–January 7, 2018
James Welling participated in the second Chicago Architecture Biennial, a citywide architecture and design exhibition. The theme for 2017, selected by the Artistic Directors Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, was "Make New History."
As part of an exhibition titled A Love of the World, The City Gallery at the Water Tower presented photographs, commissioned by the Biennial, from Welling's Chicago series (1986-2017). The photographs were taken at the Illinois Institute of Technology campus—which Welling first visited and photographed in 1987—and the Lake Shore Drive Apartments, both of which were designed by Mies van der Rohe and are closely associated with modernist architecture of the 1950s. Also as part of this exhibition, the artist's Chicago works have been reproduced in large scale and installed on the exterior of the the Chicago Cultural Center building through the summer of 2019.
"Architecture has long been one of James Welling's primary inspirations," notes Interior Design magazine, ". . . For the recent Chicago series, Welling has turned his attention to work by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe . . . Digital techniques were used to artificially saturate the photographs, imposing Welling's palette on the architect’s work. 'I was especially interested in combining intense colors with the monochromatic colors of Mies,' Welling writes."
July 10–August 4
Seascape, a new film by James Welling, made its United States debut in the artist's solo exhibition at the gallery in 2017.
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). In the early 1930s, Welling's grandfather shot black-and-white reversal footage of the Atlantic Ocean in Ogunquit, Maine, at the suggestion of Waugh. He used the footage to create oil painting which, in turn, is the basis for James Welling's Seascape.
As a collaborative work between the artist, his grandfather, and his brother, who created the sound, Seascape extends Welling's interest in incorporating autobiographical elements into his work.