James Welling Metamorphosis - Press Release | David Zwirner

My mind is bent to tell of bodies changed into new forms.
—Ovid, Metamorphoses

David Zwirner is pleased to present work by the American photographer James Welling, on view across two floors of the gallery’s Hong Kong location. The exhibition will mark the first solo presentation of the artist’s work in Greater China and will provide an overview of Welling’s forty-year career in photography, with key series from the 1980s to the present that highlight his ongoing exploration of abstraction, figuration, color, and process. 

Welling’s first major body of work, Aluminum Foil (1980–1981), is made up of black-and-white close-ups of crumpled aluminum foil. This early work signaled a break with traditional ideas of the medium by shifting attention to constructing images for the camera rather than finding them in the world. The Aluminum Foils initially read as abstractions, but upon further viewing other readings emerge: starry skies, rippling water, summer foliage, geological strata. This tightrope act in which the work hovers between abstraction and representation became one of the hallmarks of Welling’s practice.

Thirty years after Aluminum Foil, Welling began Chemical (2010–), his ongoing series of chemigrams (photographs made in room light with photographic chemicals on black-and-white photo paper). Using different tools to spread liquid and powdered developer across photosensitive material, Welling creates abstractions resembling miniature action paintings. As with the Aluminum Foils, the viewer is presented with an abstraction that lends itself to figurative readings—abstraction on the edge of representation.

Welling began using color in 2004 for Flowers, a series of photograms (cameraless photographs) that he created until 2017. The first Flowers were made in a color darkroom by layering brightly colored gels above a black-and-white negative of a flower to produce irregular fields of vibrant color. In 2014, Welling started working with flower imagery on the computer using the red, green, and blue color channels of Photoshop. The work became increasingly psychedelic and several examples of Flowers in the show are among his most intense and vibrant.

As Welling worked on Flowers, he developed a parallel project, Glass House (2006–2010), photographs of the architect Philip Johnson’s Connecticut home built in 1949. Again, Welling turned to the color filters from the early Flowers, this time holding them up in front of the camera lens. Glass House evolved over four years of visits and encompasses multiple views of The Glass House and the surrounding landscape in all seasons.

In Choreograph (2014–2020), Welling applied the intense colors of the recent Flowers to superimpose images of landscape, architecture, and modern dance. (Welling studied dance briefly in his early 20s.) For the dance images, he photographed rehearsals and performances of a dozen dance companies, including the LA Dance Project and the Lucinda Childs Dance Company. By compositing these images, Welling produces what could be called “digital collages” where layers of figuration obscure and compete with each other. Bodies, begun in 2018, uses a similar layering technique but emphasizes the body over landscape and architecture. However, in these photographs, we no longer see a modern dancer but rather a god or a mortal from antiquity.  

Welling continues to picture Greek and Roman sculptures for his most recent series Cento, begun in 2019. After photographing sculptures and objects in dozens of museums around the world, the Cento photographs use a process the artist invented in which he applies oil paint to photographic prints. A cento is a poem made up of lines from other poems. In titling his series Cento, Welling draws these fragments from antiquity into a new pictorial whole.

James Welling was born in 1951 in Hartford, Connecticut. He studied at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh before receiving his BFA and MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. The artist has been represented by David Zwirner since 2005, and Metamorphosis marks his ninth solo presentation with the gallery. 

Welling’s work has been the subject of a number of significant survey exhibitions. Most recently, in 2017, the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.) in Ghent and the Kunstforum Wien in Vienna co-organized Metamorphosis, a traveling solo show encompassing the artist’s work from over four decades. A major survey, Monograph, was organized by the Cincinnati Art Museum in Ohio and accompanied by a catalogue published by Aperture in 2013. The exhibition traveled to the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. In 2000, the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, organized a major survey of his work, which traveled to The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Baltimore Museum of Art. Welling’s work was also featured in documenta IX in 1992.

In 2020, Choreograph, a solo exhibition of Welling’s work, was on view at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York. Things Beyond Resemblance: James Welling Photographs was hosted in 2015 by the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and presented fifty works from the artist’s Wyeth project. The museum also commissioned the artist to create eight site-specific installations, Gradients, which explore the intersection of photography and sculpture. In 2012, The Mind on Fire at the MK Gallery in Milton Keynes, England, explored the origin and development of Welling’s abstract photographs from the 1980s. The show traveled to the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver.

Additional solo exhibitions have been held at the Art Institute of Chicago (2014); Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (2013); Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut (2012); Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota (2010); Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (2002); Art Gallery of York University, Toronto (2002); Sprengel Museum Hannover (1999); Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (1998); and the Kunstmuseum Luzern, Lucerne, Switzerland (1998). In 1990, the artist’s first museum exhibition was presented by Kunsthalle Bern.

In 2014, Welling was a recipient of the Infinity Award given by the International Center of Photography, New York, and in 2016, he received the Julius Shulman Institute Excellence in Photography Award from Woodbury University, California. From 1995 to 2016, Welling was Professor in the Department of Art at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and since 2012 he has been a Lecturer with the rank of Professor in Visual Arts and the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University.

The artist’s work is held in major museum collections internationally, including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tokyo Photographic Art Museum; Vancouver Art Gallery; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. He lives and works in New York.

For all press inquiries, contact:
Julia Lukacher +1 212 727 2070 [email protected]
Tong Hu +852 9769 4819 [email protected]
Victoria Kung +852 9668 1092 [email protected]

卓納畫廊香港空間欣然呈現美國攝影藝術家詹姆斯·威靈(James Welling)的個展《變形記》。這是藝術家在大中華地區的首次個展,縱觀威靈四十多年的藝術生涯,呈現自1980年代至今的數個重要系列,這些創作突出了他在抽象、具象、色彩和攝影方法等方面持續不斷的深入探索。
威靈的第一組重要系列《鋁箔》(Aluminum Foil,1980-1981),用黑白影像和特寫鏡頭聚焦了被揉皺的鋁箔。在這一系列中,威靈並非以鏡頭去尋找世界中的圖像,而是為攝影去建構圖像,這標誌著藝術家對攝影傳統觀念的突破。 《鋁箔》起先會被解讀為抽象圖像,但若進一步觀看,會為觀眾引出其他解讀:浩瀚星空,水波粼粼,夏日綠植,地質地層。這種於抽象與具象之間的遊走自如,是他的藝術標誌之一。
在《鋁箔》系列完成的三十年之後,威靈開始創作《化學製劑》系列(Chemical,2010-),以化學試劑製圖成像(chemigram,即在室內光線下,將攝影的化學製品置於黑白相紙之上成像的技術)。威靈使用了多種工具,將液體和粉末狀的化學顯影劑散佈於感光材料的表面,從而得到的抽象攝影,好似微型的行動繪畫(action painting)。同《鋁箔》系列一樣,觀者面對的是能產生無限具體聯想的抽象圖案——它們模糊了再現與抽象的分界。
2004年,從《花》系列(Flowers)起,威靈開始探索色彩。這組物體投影(photogram,即不使用相機拍攝,直接將物體置於感光相紙上成像而製作的照片)的創作持續至2017年。最早的《花》是在彩色暗房裡完成的,威靈將色彩鮮豔的凝膠層層疊放在拍攝了花卉的黑白底片上,由此在花朵的形態上增加了不規則的明亮色塊。 2014年,威靈開始在電腦上創作《花》的系列。他在Photoshop軟件中用紅、綠、藍的色彩通道對顏色進行增強,使得作品越來越凸顯迷幻的效果。此次展覽中的《花》正是他用色最為濃烈的幾件。
在創作《花》的同時,威靈還發展了項目《玻璃屋》(Glass House,2006-2010)。藝術家拍攝了建築師菲利普·約翰遜(Philip Johnson)位於康涅狄格州的家。這座建築完成於1949年。整棟房子以玻璃與不銹鋼建成,日光內外穿透,因其極簡主義的美學與對工業材料的早期運用,被視為20世紀現實主義建築的地標。玻璃屋在約翰遜生前曾是美國文化名流的會客廳,在他逝世後被列為美國的國家歷史地標供公眾參觀。這次,威靈再次使用了《花》系列早期作品中的多彩層次,將彩色濾鏡放在鏡頭前,從多角度對這座現代主義的經典之作進行拍攝。 《玻璃屋》的創作延續了四年,威靈在期間數次到訪,捕捉了建築及周圍景觀的四季變化。
在《編舞》系列(Choreograph,2014-2020)中,威靈進一步將濃烈的色彩與多層次的圖像疊加並用。威靈曾在二十多歲時短暫地學習過現代舞。為了創作《編舞》,他拍攝了數十家舞團的彩排和表演,包括洛杉磯舞蹈計劃(LA Dance Project)和露辛達·柴爾茲舞團(Lucinda Childs Dance Company)。威靈繼而將這些舞蹈照片與建築空間、自然風光的圖像進行合成,創作了他所謂的「數碼拼貼」。由此,具象的層次彼此掩映,但也競相爭奪著注意力。而始於2018年的《身體》系列(Bodies)亦採用了類似的分層技法,但是相較建築或風景,這批作品更為強調身體的形態。不過在《身體》中,我們所看到的不再是現代的舞者,而是來自古典雕塑所刻畫的神靈與凡人的形態。

詹姆斯·威靈(James Welling)1951年出生於康涅狄格州哈特福德(Hartford)。他先後就讀於卡耐基梅隆大學與匹茲堡大學,隨後於加州藝術學院獲得純藝術學士和碩士學位。卓納畫廊自2005年起代理藝術家的作品,此次展覽《變形記》是藝術家在卓納的第九次個展。
威靈已在世界各大美術館舉辦過諸多重要專題個展。 2017年,比利時國立當代藝術博物館(S.M.A.K.)與維也納藝術論壇美術館共同舉辦了藝術家的個人巡展《變形記》,涵蓋了威靈過去四十多年的作品。 2013年,俄亥俄州辛辛那提藝術博物館為威靈舉辦了重要的專題個展《專著》,並隨展覽出版了由光圈基金會(Aperture)製作的重要畫冊。展覽隨後巡展至洛杉磯哈默美術館。 2000年,俄亥俄州衛克斯那藝術中心為威靈舉辦了大型專題個展,其後巡展至洛杉磯當代藝術博物館和巴爾的摩藝術博物館。威靈的作品還曾於1992年參加了第九屆卡塞爾文獻展。
2020年,威靈的個展《編舞》在紐約州羅切斯特的喬治·伊士曼博物館舉辦。 2015年,位於賓州查茲福德的布蘭迪懷恩河藝術博物館舉辦了專題個展《超越相似性的事物:詹姆斯·威靈的攝影》,呈現了威靈《魏斯》(Wyeth)項目中的50幅作品。博物館還委任藝術家創作了八件場域特定的裝置作品《斜坡》(Gradients),以探索攝影與雕塑的相互影響。 2012年,英國MK Gallery舉辦了個展《燃燒的心》,探索了威靈自1980年代以來抽象攝影創作的源起和發展,展覽隨後巡展至西班牙加利西亞當代藝術中心和溫哥華當代藝術美術館。
藝術家其他個展機構還包括:芝加哥藝術博物館(2014年)、瑞士溫特圖爾攝影博物館(2013年)、沃茲沃思藝術學院藝術博物館,康涅狄格州哈特福德(2012年)、明尼蘇達州明尼阿波利斯美術館(2010年)、布魯塞爾美術宮(2002年)、多倫多約克大學藝術館(2002年)、漢諾威施普楞格爾博物館(1999年)、匹茲堡卡耐基藝術博物館(1998年)以及瑞士盧塞恩的琉森美術館(1998年)。 1990年,藝術家在伯恩美術館舉辦了自己的首場博物館個展。
2014年,威靈榮獲了紐約國際攝影中心頒發的「無限獎」(Infinity Award)。 2016年,他獲得了加州伍德伯里大學朱利斯·舒爾曼研究所的「攝影卓越獎」。 1995至2016年間,他曾於UCLA加州大學洛杉磯分校的藝術學院擔任教授。自2012年起,威靈在普林斯頓大學視覺藝術專業與路易斯藝術中心擔任教授級講師。

Julia Lukacher +1 212 727 2070 [email protected]
Tong Hu +852 9769 4819 [email protected]
Victoria Kung +852 9668 1092 [email protected]

Image: James Welling, 4776, 2015 (detail)

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