Post-digital abstraction in color photography

October 18, 2007

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Something my thesis work(?) explores is the idea of abstraction in photography.  Not just abstraction in the early Stieglitz-esque sense in which people in steerage get turned into a Composition, but late-era color field stuff.  Stuff that has no referent, ala James Welling, or from which the referent has been removed, ala some of Uta Barth’s work.

For me, the ability to do this starts with Sherrie Levine (an underrated artist anyway).  Her meltdown series of the mid-’80s is perhaps the first example of combining image with digital technology to arrive at abstraction.  And the thing about a photographic (post-digital) color field that separates it from your standard picture of a flat, colored surface is that the color is absolute, more absolute than in any Reinhardt painting.  (I’m not knocking Reinhardt–I really love both his political cartoon stuff and the late paintings–but it would’ve been great to see what he would’ve done with Photoshop at his disposal.)

 What I’m arriving at is that photography can “do” abstraction “better” than painting because everything–gesture, presence, human touch, whatever you want to call it–can be erased, while leaving the loaded content of a non-photographic photograph.

 The stuff here are some examples of pre-and post-digital abstraction I’ve been working on.  The mostly-white pictures are, again, Holga creations, while the other pieces are decayed and discarded paper from my art school archive which I scanned and from which I removed all the text.  All of the representation left there denotes and connotes absence and silence, yet (I think) there’ s still a there there.  Eventually I want to make a book of these.  (And also: the idea was indirectly ripped off from the very great Paul Pfeiffer.)

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