Opening on March 21, 2007, David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of new photographs by Los Angeles-based artist James Welling. In 2006, Welling was included in group exhibitions at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; Museu de Serralves, Porto, Portugal; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; the Chelsea Art Museum, New York, NY; and P.S.1, Long Island City, NY. His exhibition Agricultural Works, a project sponsored by Minetta Brook, was recently exhibited at the Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY (2006). The exhibition James Welling–Flowers, 2005 is on display at The Horticultural Society of New York at 148 W. 37th Street, 13th Floor, from March 23 through June 22, 2007.
This will be Welling's second solo exhibition at David Zwirner and will include selections from three recent bodies of work: Flowers, Hexachromes, and Authors. For the past 5 years, James Welling has explored the phenomena of color: its material presence as layers of dyes on a sheet of photo paper; its perceptual existence in the eyes of the viewer; and its symbolic place in both personal and historical contexts. This exhibition documents Welling's most recent investigation of color.
In the Hexachrome series, Welling points to the additive process of vision (the red, green and blue receptors of the human eye) by repeatedly exposing a single frame of film using different colored filters. Here, not only does he raise the analogy of vision, but he also brings temporality into his photography. By making multiple exposures on the same piece of film, over an extended period, Welling records the passage of time in the form of brightly colored shadows as they moved across groups of succulents.
In Flowers, Welling continues to work with photograms of flowers, a project he began in 2004. The most recent Flowers are larger in scale and have a greater range of colors than those in past works. To produce these works, Welling placed small, irregularly-shaped color filters behind the negative as he printed the images. In an interview with the artist, novelist/critic Lynne Tillman notes that these flowers "argue for a present-ness of the photograph." Rather than pointing to a specific moment in the past, these nearly-abstract images encourage the viewer to discover new meanings while in the presence of the work.
In the third series on display, Authors, Welling looks to the distant past. His fascination with the 19th century has been apparent since his earliest photographs, and here he names the nine photographs in the series after 19th-century writers–Alcott, Dickinson, Emerson, Fuller, and Whitman among them. He is also mining his past by using negatives he made in the 1980s, but now printing them in negative, with colors which, for him, symbolize the 19th century.
The common denominator in these three bodies of work is Welling's interest in the fundamentally artificial and arbitrary nature of color. From the psychedelic Hexachromes to the ethereal Flowers to the elegiac Authors, Welling presents an idea of photography liberated from an indexical connection to the subject. His work seeks to alter the existing world, not by digitally recreating it but by asserting that it is the photographer's prerogative to make photographs rather than merely to take them.