Samuel Allison • Gao Yuan • Michael Hall • Chad Kleitsch
Ernest Kafka • Adrian Panaro • Hannes Schmid

In art history specifically, in aesthetic history more particularly, it has been ascertained that the observed object absorbs the radiance of the observer’s mental alertness and emotional readiness. – Angelos Delivorrias, Benaki Museum, Athens 

While looking at the photographic oeuvres of the diverse group of artists in this show, we ask the viewer both to examine the “observed” as well as to question how the images came to life. Cartier-Bresson defined photography as the capture of “the decisive moment,” but today his terse definition scarcely goes far enough to encompass the many new developments falling under the rubric of photography. With digital imaging, scanning, and other technological innovations now augmenting the photographers’ method and challenging their eye, the scope of photography has broadened considerably; imagery is increasingly subject to enlargement, enhancement and a myriad of other manipulations that bring a newfound freedom of expression to practitioners of this fascinating, ever-evolving art form.

This exhibition was inspired by the important thought Paul Valéry expressed in Pièces sur l’art, la conquète de l’ubiquité: “We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.”

Samuel Allison is a photographer born in 1982 whose peripatetic existence has recently taken him to Egypt. He spent last year in India, funded by the Mortimer Hays-Brandeis Traveling Fellowship awarded him upon his graduation from Wesleyan University in 2006. Our exhibition focuses on his touching and empathic personal documentation of people and the holy sites in Varanasi, in northern India. 

Fred Camper, a Chicago-based photographic artist, calls some of his serial works Accretions.  Drawing on his experience in both science and filmmaking, he produces mathematically-structured photographic sequences on multiple sheets to great cumulative effect.  The mystery of his final array of compelling compositions is revealed only upon the viewer’s analysis of his multi-faceted viewpoints.  Some Accretions contain only a single photograph while others astonishingly encompass as many as 34 or 55 images. He describes this work as being “structured as journeys, across space and through deepening states of awareness.  They are meant to argue against and counteract the reductively materialistic nature of our culture.”  His homage to the architect Oscar Niemeyer will be featured in our exhibition. 

Gao Yuan lives and works in Beijing and New York. Her photographic assemblage called Twelve Moons confronts the traditional subject of Mother and Child through an innovative combination of digital photography in the backgrounds, film in the foregrounds and montage, all integrated by a scanning process. This artistic project began with a casting call for mothers with children in Beijing, and many of the sitters are wives of construction workers who flocked from distant provinces in search of jobs in the city.  Most who answered the artist’s call had male children, a result of China’s one-child policy, although the artist chose female children as sitters, as well. To complete the cyclical and conceptual aspect of this ambitious project, she superimposed digital “tattoos” on the image of each child to mark the years of the Chinese Zodiac. It is no surprise that Twelves Moons was shown to great critical acclaim at Shanghai MoCA’s exhibition Butterfly Dream this fall.
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Michael Hall was selected as “Photographer of the Year” in 2006 by the Federation of European Photographers.  He has also won Canon’s award as the “New Zealand Architectural Photographer of the Year.” With a background in travel and editorial photography, his fine art photography uses color negative film in a large-format technical camera to produce magnificent landscapes as wide as a meter and a half. The artist’s refined technique involves drum-scanning the exposed film at the highest resolution and then subjecting it to special manipulations and reworkings. Hall’s work focuses specifically on landscapes with an eye to man’s impact upon them.  He is currently undertaking an extensive project to document the causes and effects of global warming to meet the urgent need to improve ecological awareness around the world. www.michaelhall.net

Ernest Kafka comes to photography though a life committed to the close observation of people and the consideration of things both said and unsaid. A psychoanalyst with a strong background in music and the visual arts, he is both a photographer and an avid art collector.  His sophisticated perspective roots him firmly “in the moment”; he captures his subjects as they are with a subtle wit and a proper distance but always with concern and a quiet passion for life. His pictures record a specific moment but also suggest the flow of time in which history, memory and the actual conjoin in a synaesthetic and highly evocative manner.  He created this series of observational photographs called As it Was in Italy, Spain and Turkey between 2003 through 2007, most of which are presented for the first time to the public in this exhibition.

Chad Kleitsch presents his botanical scans selected from his vast photographic oeuvre for this exhibition.  His work holds an unusual place within the long tradition of botanical imagery.  His poignant aesthetic leads him to bypass conventional photography and instead make scans of flowers as living documents bathed in a swathing pass of light. A certain irony is conveyed by his exceptional work. While apparently “truthful” to the point of brutal accuracy, the resultant images nonetheless seem possessed by a sense of life and even impending death. The beauty of the image captured is so pure that it cannot help but presage  the subjects' ultimate demise, as with all living things. The artist envisions these works “as portraits of beings whose life is brief and whose silence and perfection are wondrous.” He earned his B.A. in Photography at Bard College in New York in 1991 and has since lectured at Yale University and Sarah Lawrence College and taught at The Center for Photography at Woodstock.

Adrian Panaro has had a long career in photography that began in the 1970s. Currently he lives and works in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the site of his recent solo exhibition entitled “Sign and Demeanors."  This show marked his return to street photography, whereby he depicts how people live amidst and interact with the overwhelming imagery of billboards and advertising that aggrandizes the quotidian and lifts the common-place to mythic stature. His work is included in the archives of the Richard Avedon Foundation, and in the collection of the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History.  Panaro’s early portraits of artists and writers featuring Robert Mapplethorpe, Kenny Sharf and Kathy Acker are exhibited in this show.

Hannes Schmid, who lives and works in Switzerland, is renowned as the photographer of one of the most famed Marlboro Man advertising campaigns whose Cowboy as an icon has bridged over into the world of conceptual art.  He has also been judged the "Best Fashion Photographer of the Year" at the Festival International de la mode et de la photographie.  For this exhibition Mr. Schmid presents a personal project entitled The Flow of Life. The Maha Kumbh Mela that occurred in Allahabad, India on 24 January 2001, was a pilgrimage of the largest number of human beings ever assembled in one spot with the aim of taking a ritual bath the holy waters of the Ganges River.  As he describes this exceptional moment in the history of mankind, the photographer waited many years to focus on "twenty-eight million people through my eye-piece" and "realized that nothing could have stopped these pilgrims driven by  such enormous religious zeal and the only way to stop the lava-like flow of people was to take a picture." A video of the event taken contemporaneously by Schmid accompanies the selection of photographs. 
Gao Yuan, Chad Kleitsch, Ernest Kafka
Adrian Panaro
Sam Allison, Hannes Schmid
© Photographs of Exhibition courtesy of Adrian Panaro
Images available on request: info@wrgallery.com

Contact:  Walter Randel