JTF (just the facts): A paired show consisting of the work of two photographers, Chuck Kelton and Eric William Carroll, shown against white walls in a large, single room gallery space. There are 11 photographs by Kelton on view, all unique hand toned gelatin silver prints. The works are framed in black and unmatted, sized 19×23, and were made in 2012. A folio of 9 smaller prints (each roughly 8×10) from the same series is shown on a table in the center of the gallery. There are four works by Carroll on view in the back half of the space, each a set of 3 or 4 diazotype prints hung together. The works are unframed and pinned directly to the wall. Each individual panel is sized 72×36, and the works were made in 2010. An artist book from the same series is shown on the table in the center of the gallery. The exhibit was curated by Alison Bradley. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: This show brings together recent work by Chuck Kelton and Eric William Carroll, playing off a common interest in process-centric photography. The two also share some aesthetic kinship in their use of in-between light that seeps and diffuses, adding enclosed mystery to their carefully constructed compositions.
At first glance, Chuck Kelton’s photograms are deceptive and uncertain. From afar, the black craggy areas at the bottom look like mountains or mesas captured as sharp silhouettes. Up close, they reverse into top down topographical maps of unknown shorelines and continental edges, every inlet and bay shown in exacting detail. The “sky” part of each image is decorated with wisps of smoke, murky clouds, or indistinct washes and apparitions (depending on your perspective), and each background is subtly toned in shifting hues, giving the appearance of sunrise or sunset, or some transitional nether time between dark and light. Put together, the works have the style of landscapes, but remain open for imaginative interpretation, full of unspoken foreboding.
Using the diazotype (blueprint) process, Eric William Carroll’s images of forest undergrowth are more easily recognizable, capturing filtered light and dark shadows in a haze of soft, royal blue. Tiny up-close leaves are silhouetted against bright spots in the dense woods, while the background recedes into a mottled blur. Standing in their presence (and they have a definite physicality given their size), I saw visual echoes of Robert Adams’ recent work, the River Taw photograms of Susan Derges, and even classical nature screens from China and Japan. Their Yves Klein color is rich and tactile, the effect a mixture of bright energy and muted meditation.
This show is a solid reminder that even in this age of ubiquitous digital photography, many contemporary artists are continuing to explore ways of incorporating (or reincorporating) the hand of the artist into the process. Craftsmanship has not gone away, it’s just morphing into different forms, using both old and new techniques with increased flexibility.
Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows. Kelton’s unique prints are priced at $4800 each, while the 9 print folio is $9500. Carroll’s works are $8000 each, regardless of the number of panels; his artist’s book is $2000. Neither artist has much secondary market history, so gallery retail likely remains the best/only option for those collectors interested in following up.