Photograms 1839-2012

1-5 March 2017 at The ADAA Art Show

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NEW YORK – Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs will exhibit a selection of photograms from the earliest days of photography and by contemporary artists including Adam Fuss and Hiroshi Sugimoto at Booth A3 at the ADAA Art Show to be held March 1-5, 2017 at the Park Avenue Armory.

Photograms are camera-less images made by placing objects directly onto the surface of sensitized paper and then exposing it to light. They are among the earliest photographic works ever created.

Photograms 1839-2012 will present some of the very first photograms, including one by William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877), the inventor of the photographic negative. When Talbot announced his discovery in 1839, it was in the depths of a harsh winter without much sunlight – an essential ingredient of early photography. Talbot overcame this by producing mostly photograms through that spring and summer. His Maidenhair Fern, 1839, with its pastel tones, anticipates modern abstractions.

In the early 1840s, Talbot placed a piece of lace in contact with photographically sensitized paper to produce a boldly graphic image. When he first held it in front of a group of people, they thought it was an actual piece of lace and were stunned to learn instead that it was a photographic representation. This experience provided Talbot with an early method of demonstrating the power of photography to capture detail comparable to the best Dutch painters. A fine salt print of this will be on display.

Trained as a botanist, Anna Atkins (English, 1799-1871) learned photographic techniques from Talbot to document botanical specimens. Her aesthetic sense informed her pioneering use of the cyanotype or blueprint process which led her to create the first photographically illustrated book, British Algae, 1843-1851. A rare volume of the book with 70 images will be on view at Hans P. Kraus Jr. Her cyanotypes of the 1850s, such as Ceylon, 1851-54, are striking precursors of the expressive photography of 20th century artists.

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) is a bridge between the early pioneers, Talbot and Atkins, and recent works by contemporary artists Fuss and Sugimoto, who credit Talbot’s work as inspiration. Rayograph, 1922, was made the year Man Ray first began creating the Rayographs series. His deliberate placement of glassware and other translucent objects on this very sheet of paper results in a strong graphic composition.

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, b. 1948) created a series entitled Lightning Fields, 2009, by making dynamic camera-less photographs depicting electrical charges, influenced in part by Fox Talbot’s research into static electricity. His images were made using a Van de Graaff 400,000 volt generator to charge a metal ball with static. The negative pole was provided by a large metal tabletop on which was placed a sheet of film. The “lightning field” is formed by the spark resulting from Sugimoto moving the metal ball close to the metal tabletop once the electric charge reaches its desired strength. If the charge is powerful enough it creates the capillary effect of electric light so dramatically captured in Lightning Fields 225, 2009.

Reinterpreting photography’s earliest processes, Adam Fuss (American, born in England, 1961) refines camera-less techniques in his work. His image of a butterfly, Untitled, “For Allegra”, is surprisingly both a photogram and a daguerreotype. The butterfly is a classic symbol of the brevity of life, its flight standing for the passage of the soul. By intentionally overexposing the plate, the artist created a shimmering blue image.