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My Favorite Lecture: Ellen Carey

Back to the Future: The Avant-Garde is An Address

Related Member: Ellen Carey

"Back to The Future: The Avant-Garde is An Address"
Lecture by Ellen Carey
Experimental Photographer - Independent Scholar – University Educator

Abstraction in photography and lens-based art presents a contradiction in terms, and minimalism presents a further oxymoron. Well developed in the 20th century in other areas — Abstract Expressionism, Minimal, Conceptual Art — abstraction and minimalism in lens-based art is emerging even as the second decade in the 21st century is starting to close. It is here, in the early stages of modern and contemporary art with its roots in photography, that my work has a context. These movements, when seen in the context of American art, allows the tenets of its legacy to exist, all incorporated into my practice. The American invention of Polaroid and by extension, its mammoth Polaroid 20 X 24 (circa 1980) complements these breakthroughs in visual thinking with my discovery of the Pull in 1996, followed by the Rollback. An image, abstract and minimal is simultaneously produced as a unique negative-to-positive print, merging Polaroid instant images with my experimental ideas, often with little or no exposure - zero - hence, Photography Degree Zero (1996-2023).

At the dawn of photography, one finds the photogram (1834). The word 'photography' means "drawing with light", its Greek roots - phōs for light, graphis for drawing. Originally called 'photogenic drawing' later the 'photogram' a term that continues today, it was discovered by the British inventor, William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) as a paper negative print (1834), contact printed for its positive (1840). The photogram legacy continues under my darkroom practice Struck by Light (1992-2023). In color, this history begins with the female British Victorian, Anna Atkins (1799-1871), Talbot's contemporary, the first woman practitioner, also camera-less, first woman in color through the cyanotype, "sun pictures" creating a Prussian blue, taught to her by Sir John Herschel, its inventor, friend to both.

Photography Degree Zero (1996-2024) in Polaroid 20 X 24 and Struck by Light (1988-2024) in Photogram name these dual practices; Pictus & Writ sees published essays: Man Ray, Sol LeWitt, Anna Atkins plus her own work. Carey is Associate Professor of Photography-Hartford Art School (1983 - 2024). I emphasizes photography's indexical "drawing with light" and light with color. My innovative, technical knowledge and burgeoning imagination dare viewers to engage with the arc of time beginning with the earliest memory of light and shadow up to the present of momentary rainbows. My performative record is a visual all or nothing, 'zero'. These photographs no longer represent object-subject relations but rather the twin interplay of light and shadow, stark in black and white minimalism and freeing color itself into a kaleidoscope of abstraction that create new "picture signs" that reference a global history culture that highlights the "avant-garde" and those addresses; movements in America and Europe, with a "linked ring" under "light" and "color".

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