JTF (just the facts): A total of 21 black and white photographic works, framed in black and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the East and West gallery spaces. All of the works are made up of gelatin silver print paper negatives, consisting of between one and thirteen panels. Individual panels range in size from 5×4 to 40×30, and each of the works is unique. The images were taken between 2009 and 2012. A monograph of this body of work was recently published by Candela Books (here). (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: Chris McCaw’s photographs turn away from the traditional shutter-click decisive moment and measure time in much longer and more extended intervals. Using antique papers and custom built cameras, he patiently traces the path of the sun across the sky, mixing scientific precision with age-old elemental wonder. As the hours pass, the images overexpose and eventually burn, leaving seared holes and charred browned edges as evidence of something not only pleasingly visual but verifiably physical.
McCaw’s works have the feel of experiments, starting with a calculated journey to some far off locale and ending with a trial of endurance between the artist and the sun. Depending on the location, the camera angle, and the special event (equinox, eclipse, etc.), the solar movements manifest themselves as variations of arcs and curves slashing across the sky, grounded by ghosts of mountain ranges or softly reflecting seascapes. At the equator, the sun streak is completely vertical; up above the Arctic Circle, the 24 hour line follows an undulatingly perfect up and down sine curve. When McCaw opts for intermittent exposures rather than continuous ones, the sun becomes a series of dots, like a string of ping pong balls following a controlled mathematical trajectory.
In many ways, McCaw’s approach is a throwback to the 19th century, with its paper negatives, its can-do process centrism, and its amateur astronomy. Seen from the 21st century, his works seem more like a conscious reaction to the digital revolution, a celebration of what is still timeless and mysterious in this world. Even today, the strength of the sun is too much for our unprotected eyes to take in. McCaw’s cameras show us the patterns and flows of things we can’t otherwise see, the elegant scorched edges and burned scars reminding us of forces much larger and more powerful than ourselves.
Collector’s POV: The works in this show were priced between $5000 and $42000, roughly based on size and number of panels. I use the past tense since nearly all of the works were already sold when I visited the gallery. McCaw’s work has not yet reached the secondary markets, so gallery retail is the best option for those collectors interested in following up.