Sarah Palmer was born in San Francisco, and lives in Brooklyn. She received her MFA in Photography, Video and Related Media from School of Visual Arts in 2008, where she was awarded an Aaron Siskind Scholarship, and her BA from Vassar College in 1999. Her work has been exhibited in the US and in Europe, at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, in satellite exhibitions at the New York Photo Festival in 2009 and 2011, and at Foam_fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam, among others. Her photographs and writing have been published in print and online journals and exhibition catalogs. She was awarded the 2011 Aperture Portfolio Prize2011 Aperture Portfolio Prize in spring 2012 and has had solo exhibitions at the Wild Project, in 2010, and at Aperture Gallery in fall 2012. She is on the full-time photography faculty at Parsons The New School for Design and the Board of Directors of Rooftop Films.
Barbara Kasten on her work Studio Construct 17 in The Edge of Vision Interview Series by Aperture Foundation.
While many might consider Barbara Kasten, whose portfolio was featured in Aperture 136, one of the foremost artists pushing the limits of the photography, she herself considers her work pushing the limits of painting, drawing, and sculpture more through a particular use of photography.
Kasten was one of the artist’s covered in Lyle Rexer’s 2009 volume The Edge of Vision, a history of abstraction in photography that traces the roots of what might be a contemporary revival of the mode to early ‘modernist’ photographers like Aaron Siskind and László Maholy-Nagy. However, as she explains in an interview with The Photography Post, she prefers to distance herself from terms like ‘abstract’ or ‘modernist.’ “What I do,” she says, “is neither a continuation nor a departure from their work but a conceptual event of my own.”
Most non-representational art is an abstraction of some originally recognizable form. Kasten considers her work, on the other hand, “as a process that transforms itself into something else. Beginning with a simple, transparent, non-representational form, I create the image as I work through the possibilities of sculptural and lighting combinations to a new point of perception.”
She photographs assemblages that are built with mirrors, plexiglass, paper, and highly specific lighting situations, not to last, but for the sole purpose of the photograph. She distances her work from the discourse of engaging with the ‘real,’ and levels instead a strict focus on the sheer phenomenon of light.
Her latest exhibition, Constructs, Abrasions, Melons and Cucumbers with sculptor Justin Beal, opening Thursday, June 21, 2012 at Bortolami Gallery in New York (on view through August 3, 2012), is an attempt to explore the ways the artist tends to “mis”-lead the audience’s first reading of the work.
Find more about Kasten’s “approach to photography and what it means to ‘think like a painter’,” in another interview with Anthony Pearson of Frieze Magazine.
Constructs, Abrasions, Melons and Cucumbers
Thursday June 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm
Exhibition on view:
Through August 3, 2012
520 West 20 St
New York, NY
The photographic process is often credited in part with displacing representation from painting, pushing it over the course of the first half of the last century further into the domain of abstraction. The camera was commonly thought to capture and document a supposed objective reality in a way the human hand never could. However, photography itself has also been variously employed for nonrepresentational abstraction since its inception.
From the very first photograms to Aaron Siskind‘s ab-ex alluding macrophotography, to Penelope Umbrico‘s digitally-manipulated found images of “Suns From Flickr,” The Edge of Vision: Abstractions in Contemporary Photography (on view at Schneider Museum of Art in Oregon through June 16, 2012) examines the history of nonrepresentational photographic image-making and its role in contemporary art.
In a two part video interview, independent writer and critic Lyle Rexer, who curated the exhibition and authored the 2009 Aperture-published book by the same title, says he was drawn to artists that “were making pictures that moved away from from an easily identifiable subject, or that complicated the picture or the response that we normal have to pictures, in what is essentially thought of as a denotative medium.”
The traveling exhibition, which has been on view in a number of places around the world, each time in a slightly different iteration, features work by a diverse group of contemporary artists including Bill Armstrong, Carel Balth, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Ellen Carey, Roland Fischer, Michael Flomen, Manuel Geerinck, Edward Mapplethorpe, Penelope Umbrico, Silvio Wolf, and more listed here. For Rexer, he says, bringing this group together and seeing what they have in common is meant to address the following question:
What is it about photography now that makes it possible for us to have artists that on the one hand do very documentary work, and other artists at the same time, sometimes the same artists, who are also doing work that would qualify as abstract?
For more information on the work on view, be sure to check out the Edge of Vision Video Interview Series, conducted during the installation at Aperture Gallery in 2009, on vimeo:
- Penelope Umbrico persents her work “For Sale/TV’s From Craigslist,” and explains why she considers herself a documentary photographer, “a traveler through media.”
- Ellen Carey discusses her large-scale work “Pulls with Lifts and Drops,” film pulled through the rollers of a Polaroid large-format camera, and her color photogram, “PushPins,” exploring how each challenges the viewer to rethink the medium.
- Barbara Kasten explains her work based on physical constructions that play with light and are created only for the purpose of being photographed. By this approach, the photograph itself becomes the object and is removed from being representative or documentary.
- Silvio Wolf presents his work which combines straight photography and the unexposed ends of film rolls as negatives exposed to light. The end results are mesmerizing and meditative colorful images about light and absence of light.
- Bill Armstrong puts in context his “Mandala #450″ piece, explains why he uses blurring as a process and explores his “painterly approach to photography.”
- Charles Lindsay speaks about how he started working with his unique carbon emulsion process, his inspirations and the combination of his photographic, video and sound works.
- Seth Lambert contextualizes his work in the show “Nothing on the Bed of an Epson Expression 10000XL” within his Failures series of grids mapping out anything from beard hair, mirror pieces to nothing with a blank scan.
- Carel Balth explains the process behind his works “Moving IV” and “Madrid V,” and how his appropriation of images through a digital format functions as a new medium.
- Jack Sal speaks about his piece “Sale/Sala (Salt/Room)” while you watch him installing it.
- Manuel Geerinck, who started his career as a painter, speaks about his unique process combining his drawings that he then photographs in motion.
Also, watch a panel discussion on Abstraction in Photography from 2009 at the Hammer Museum at UCLA, moderated by Rexer, and read a review of the exhibition when it was on view at Lewis & Clark College in Portland earlier this year, from the Oregonian.
Exhibition on view:
Thursday, May 10 – Saturday, June 16, 2012
$5 Suggested Donation
Schneider Museum of Art
1250 Siskiyou Blvd
A game of hopscotch. A toothpaste ad. Filthy slums. This, for better or worse, was New York life in the 1930s. Many looked but few saw until the Photo League—a pioneering group of young, idealistic documentary photographers—captured that life with cameras.
The Manhattan-based League, which incorporated a school, darkroom, gallery and salon, was the first institution of its kind when it was founded in 1936 says Mason Klein, curator of fine arts at The Jewish Museum, which is currently presenting “The Radical Camera,” an exhibition in collaboration with the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio. “There was nothing like the Photo League, where people could exhibit their work, students alongside their mentors, be taught a kind of history of photography and start understanding what the meaning of the photograph might be.”
Many of its founding members, including Sid Grossman, Sol Libsohn and Aaron Siskind, were first-generation Jewish immigrants with progressive, left-wing sensibilities. “They were very conscious of neighborhoods and communities,” says Klein. “I think it was very natural for Jews to form an egalitarian group and understand that the ordinary citizen of the urban scene was as much a valid subject as any for photography.”
The League thrived for fifteen years, generating projects like the Harlem Document, a collaborative effort by ten photographers to document the living conditions in poor black neighborhoods. It also fostered the careers of notable photographers such as Lisette Model, Weegee and Rosalie Gwathmey.
Despite its progressive agenda, the League’s mission was far from simplistic. Founder Grossman, who was just 23 when the group started, encouraged its members to look beyond documentary and question their relationship with the image. “Sid taught people to challenge their habitual ways of seeing the world,” says Klein. “A more poetic and metaphoric expression of how one saw the world was what Sid wanted from his students.” Under Grossman’s guidance, the League’s young muckrakers became artists.
By the 1940s, the League had turned away from its narrow political focus, capturing the squalor and splendor of everyday New York. The country was moving in the other direction, however, zeroing in on those suspected of harboring leftist sympathies. On December 5, 1947, the U.S. Attorney General blacklisted the League as “totalitarian, fascist, communist or subversive.” In 1951, it closed its doors forever.
The League’s reputation has never truly recovered, says Klein. “They were condemned to a kind of ideological shelving and, I think, unfairly treated by history. We’re trying to rectify that with this show, because they really were always about pushing the photograph and understanding it as art.”
The Radical Camera is on display at The Jewish Museum in New York through March 25.
Sonia van Gilder Cooke is a reporter in TIME’s London Bureau. Follow her on Twitter at @svangildercooke.
This Fall, many works by Aperture-featured photographers are being exhibited in New York City. Here is our run-down of this season’s must-see shows.
Gary Schneider: HandPrints, Johhanesburg at David Krut Projects. Made by hands’ sweat and heat interacting with film emulsion, these unusual portraits of friends and family will be on view September 8 – October 22, 2011.
Hellen van Meene at Yancey Richardson Gallery, September 8 – October 22, 2011, will exhibit the photographer’s distinct style of portraiture.
Vik Muniz at Sikkema Jenkins & Co., September 9 – October 15, 2011, focusing on paintings by the Brazilian artist.
Edward Steichen: The Last Printing at Danziger Projects, September 15 – October 29, 2011. Photographs made by George Tice, renowned photographer and Steichen’s last printer.
Social Media at Pace/MacGill, from September 16 – October 15, 2011, featuring work by Penelope Umbrico & others. Detailing the rise of social media in our visual culture, it includes Umbrico’s work Sunset Portraits From 9,623,557 Sunset Pictures which was meticulously culled from the photo-sharing website Flickr.
Simon Norfolk: Burke + Norfolk at Bonni Benrubi Gallery, September 14 – December 3, 2011, features a visual dialogue between nineteenth-century British photographer John Burke and contemporary photographer Simon Norfolk, centered in Afghanistan.
The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936 – 1951 at The Jewish Museum from November 4 – March 25, 2011. Featuring work by Lisette Modell, Aaron Siskind, Weegee & many other photography legends.
There are also many gallery openings that are showing artists featured in our 2011 Benefit, Auction & SNAP! Party:
Sara Greenberger Rafferty at Rachel Uffner Gallery, September 7 – October 23, 2011.
Charlotte Dumas: Retrieved at Julie Saul Gallery, September 8 – October 15, 2011.
The Panopticon Gallery in Boston is presenting a new exhibition, Kids Are People Too, opening June 8, 2011 and running through until July 12, 2011. Kids Are People Too celebrates the work of sixteen photographers and their images of children, from the well known to the emerging contemporary artist.
Gallerist and curator, Jason Landry, remembers his own childhood, “When I was a boy there was a TV show called, Kids Are People Too. It was like a talk show for kids: a Sunday morning variety show. My fondest memory of that show was the time that they had my favorite rock band on, KISS. Isn’t it interesting that some childhood memories are quite vivid, while others are long forgotten?”
Well, I just happened to find a you tube of that episode…perhaps some memories are best staying just that, as memories…
Photographers include Hiroshi Watanabe, Harold Feinstein, Suzanne Revy, Aaron Siskind, Aline Smithson, Wynn Bullock, Ernest C. Withers, Shelby Lee Adams, Constantine Manos, Abelardo Morell, Kirsty O’Keeffe, Amy Stein, Jock Sturges, Keiko Hiromi, Wendy Sacks, and Azita Panahpour.
© Jock Sturges. Misty Dawn, Northern California, 1992. gelatin silver print.
Zen Photography workshop at Apeiron, ca. 1979. Front row, 3rd from left: workshop leader John Daido Loori; 5th from left (hand above eyes): Apeiron founder Peter Schlessinger, who later helped Loori found the Zen Mountain Center in Woodstock, New York. Both were students of Minor White. Atlanta Driveway Replacement . new home . (Photograph courtesy Apeiron archives)
Forty years ago, shortly after working for a year and a half as an editorial assistant at Aperture (and using many of the contacts hed made there), Peter Schlessinger opened a photography-workshop center called Apeiron Workshops. criminal attorney . Located two hours north of New York City in Millerton, N.Y., and based on methods of focusing attention taught by Apertures editor, Minor White, Apeiron offered immersive residential programs of various lengths. Its summer programs offered workshops with an A-list of creative photographers of the time, including Berenice Abbott, Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Paul Caponigro, Linda Connor, Judy Dater, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Ralph Gibson, Emmet Gowin, Robert Heinecken, Elaine Mayes, Lisette Model, Aaron Siskind, Frederick Sommer, and Garry Winogrand, plus Magnum photographers Charles Harbutt, Mary Ellen Mark, Susan Meiselas, Gilles Peress, and Burk Uzzle. Eventually, Apeiron would also run longer (three-month) spring and fall programs, teach in the public schools, offer a selection of traveling exhibitions, run specialized workshops for teachers, and offer theoretical conferences. During its 12-year tenure, Apeiron published Linda Connors first book, Solos, and mounted one of the largest NEA-funded photographic surveys, The Long Island Project. Always run on a shoestring and the heroic commitment of its near-volunteer staff, it closed in 1982 as interest rates hit 18 percent and President Reagan slashed the NEAs funding.
This coming Labor Day weekend, a reunion open to all who ever participated (as staff, students, workshop leaders, artists-in-residence, or special-project staff) is being held at a conference center in the mountains outside Asheville, North Carolina. Anyone who falls into one or more of the aforementioned categories is encouraged to contact Benjamin Porter at [email protected] or call him at 828-281-1825 for full information.