James Welling, Installation view, David Zwirner Gallery, New York,

It seems none of the older artists who were to survive the 1970's could explain their own sanguine rebirth into the Chelsea art scene. There only similarity is that the refractive light in their work suggests that they are still in motion. Transiting from abstraction into realism, they sacrificed their personal touch in favor of technology. Selections from James Welling’s 2005 “Flowers,” are currently on exhibit at David Zwirner Gallery, 533 West 19th Street (until April 28, 2007) and at the Horticultural Society of New York, 148 West 37th Street, 13th Floor (until June 22, 2007). When asked, during his MOMA retrospective, by Charlie Rose what the next art movement would be, the Minimalist painter, Brice Marden answered, “it would be literary.

 Yet, Welling’s photograms of wildflowers allude to the sun drenched silhouetted light of the palmettos that line the highways of Los Angeles.  One worries that the anemic and faded figures of flowers that bleed through the white paper become too invisible rather than reflective or symbolic of something far reaching. 

 Born in 1951 in Hartford, Connecticut, the photographer, James Welling attended the Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA and received his B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the

California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California in 1974. Welling now resides and works in Los Angeles, California. He is Professor of Fine Arts at the University of California, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Bard College. 

 Younger photographers like David Hilliard attended Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and received an M.F.A. from Yale University School of Art in 1994. His “Perennial,” 2006 and “Widow,” 2005  are multi-paneled and intensely colorful. No matter whether it has been done before, which it has, by great masters such as Man Ray, Welling’s career never lost momentum, although his viewpoint may have.

 Very few artist’s express childlike honesty. Rather, today’s artists become masters at technology and produce larger than life superrealistic imagery. Whether or not this trend answers the prayers of art lovers is another question. We see work like this everywhere and it certainly doesn’t address a literary thirst for art school confidential.  Nor, does it challenge the art going public in an insider’s way.

 I was first introduced to James Welling’s photographic abstractions at Christine Burgin Gallery in 1986. Upon the gallery walls were phenomenal pools of framed light and color. They were similar to the effect the lit drapery photographs have in his current exhibition at David Zwirner Gallery. The Director, Christine Burgin in her pastel Armani mini-suit with long, wavy brown hair took your breath away and was quite a girlish muse up against Welling’s early photographs. 

 In those days it was the artist’s way of coming up behind you, and Welling’s addictive use of traditional gelatin silver prints, shutterless and vintage view cameras recreated a romantic art world. Soon the iconic artist, William Wegman would sweep her off her feet, and not surprisingly this April 11, 2007, she married for a third time and become Mrs. Amos B. Harris.



 David Zwirner Gallery 

 March 21st - April 28th, 2007

whitehot gallery images, click a thumbnail.

Claudia Schwalb

Schwalb graduated from Pratt Institute in 1974.  She was an emerging artist during the Minimalist movement in the 1970's.  She was raised in New York City during the Abstract Expressionist era. Claudia was the youngest artist ever to have a solo exhibition at The Clocktower/P.S.1 in 1977.  Claudia went on to write for Barbara Rose's Journal of Art and was one of the Contributing Editors of Cover/Arts New York along with John Yau and Judd Tully (Editor-at-Large for Arts & Auction).  She was Curator of the Knitting Factory and a television news transcriber for Peter Jennings' World News Tonight.  Subsequently, Claudia transcribed two movies, "Refuge" and "Interview with the Dalai Lama" which played at the Quad last year.

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