JTF (just the facts): A total of 13 color photographs, alternately framed in wood/white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the main gallery space and the entry area. 6 of the works (from the series Polarization) are archival pigment prints, made in 2016. Each is sized 40×27 inches (or reverse) and is available in an edition of 5. 3 additional works from the same series are pigment prints, made in 2016. These prints are sized roughly 24×19 (or reverse) and are also available in editions of 5. The remaining 4 works (from the series Radiant Foil) are archival pigment prints, made in 2016. Each is sized 35×27 inches, and is available in an edition of 5. (Installation and detail shots below.)
Comments/Context: Across the history of the medium, the very act of using a camera to make pictures has, for some inward looking artists, opened up a series of engrossing (and arcane) technical questions around the scientific properties of light and color. If a photographer decides to look closely, it doesn’t take long for the differences between our human optical processing systems and those of our machines to become apparent, and these divergences can form the basis of in-depth artistic exploration. Eadweard Muybridge invented stop motion photography to answer questions about a horse’s gallop, Berenice Abbott painstakingly documented the elusive physics of light at MIT, and more recently, Jessica Eaton has meticulously unpacked the properties of additive color, and these three represent just a few of the many artists across the decades who have found their art residing inside the science of image making.
The German photographer Martin Klimas has spent much of his artistic career actively probing similar questions. He has used explosions to upend the floral still life genre, stopping time at the moment of impact and tracking the violent upheaval of the resulting debris. He has also explored variations on the visualization of sound, from using liquid paint to see the jolting verticality of sound blasted from a speaker to capturing the patterns of sound waves as they ripple across the surface of water.
In his two most recent series, Klimas has turned his attention to the intersection of light and transparency, using thin plastic films as the enabler of his intricate visual experiments. Two sets of images make up the Polarization series, which takes its name from the polarized light being passed through the films. In one set, various strips, ribbons, and circular disks are arranged in ordered groups, where the twists, folds, and overlaps generate layers of dark and light and unexpected oscillations into muted tones of yellow and blue. That arrangements of clear sheets could generate such differences in darkness and coloration is part of the magic here, and Klimas has placed his materials with care, creating abstract compositions of crisp geometries that wind and bend back into zig zags, stripes, and elegant formal patterns.
The second part of the Polarization series employs a slightly different compositional plan, pushing the films to nest in on themselves instead of extending them into straight lines and diagonals in wider space. The results are tighter conglomerations of spinning folds and origami-like interleaving that generate even more audacious spectral colors when exposed to light, the edges and surfaces becoming a startling rainbow of refractions and reflections.
The Radiant Foil series turns snippets of this same transparent film on edge, the artist arranging the tiny shards like curving Richard Serra-like walls and then casting white light into the spaces created in between. At first glance, since the pieces are shot from above, they look like thin S- and C-shaped lines, put together in gestural pairs and sinuous clustered groups. But when the light is channeled into just the right spots, color bursts forth, in hazy hues of orange, pink, yellow, blue, and purple that act like cotton candy shadows. Like celestial auroras, the misty hues fill in the gaps and flares diffuse into the nearby air, the color taking on round softness as it mixes and disperses. That so much effusive color can be extracted from humble transparent film is science at its most wondrous.
Seen together, the works in Klimas’ smart show cast photography as a realm of purpose-driven analytical experimentation, where studio setups are tested, modified, and reconsidered over and over until the right results are coaxed out, that process executed with a sense of methodical precision. While some abstract photography feels deliberately risky and improvisational, Klimas’ recent efforts trend the other way, embracing systematic trial and refinement as the path to artistic discovery.
Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced between $3500 and $4500. Klimas’ work has little secondary market history, so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.