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Art Talks: Metamorphosis | James Welling, Quentin Bajac, Robert Slifkin | An Art Book Series Event

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May 23, 2017

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To celebrate the release of his new monograph, Metamorphosis, photographer James Welling is joined by Quentin Bajac, The Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art, and Robert Slifkin, Professor of Fine Arts at New York University, to examine highlights from four decades of work and discuss his first survey show. Currently on view at the Kunstforum Wien in Vienna, is James Welling: Metamorphosis, a solo show encompassing the artist's work from over three decades (through July 16, 2017). The exhibition is co-organized by the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.) in Ghent, where it was on view earlier this year.

Emerging out of the “Picture Generation”—a group of artists focused on a critique of photographic media—James Welling has gone on to experiment successfully in nearly every photographic genre. The monograph Metamorphosis, designed by Joseph Logan in close collaboration with the artist, presents a selection of works from the early 1970s to today, demonstrating the artist’s conceptual foundations.  

Welling’s series are dialogues between image and matter, process and result, representation and abstraction. This volume includes, amongst other series, selections from “Diary/Landscape,” in which Welling matched the writing of his ancestors’ letters with Connecticut winter landscapes; “Glass House” a meditation on Philip Johnson’s 1949 residence, shot using colored filters; examples from his “Degrades,” pure color photograms created in the darkroom as well as selections from his recent “Wyeth” and “Choreograph” track his early interest in painting and dance. 

The generous and vividly reproduced illustrations are accompanied by an extensive interview with the artist and critical essays that discuss Welling’s work in connection with American painting, post-modernism, and authorship, and the artist’s eloquently emotional photographic language.

Copies of James Welling: Metamorphosis (Prestel Germany, 2017) are available for purchase and signing at the end of the event.

Choreograph, 2014–17. 9910, 2015. Inkjet prints, Epson 9900 print on Museo Silver Rag paper
Choreograph, 2014–17. 9910, 2015. Inkjet print.
Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles.

Quentin Bajac is The Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art. He has co-organized the exhibition Scenes for a New Heritage: Contemporary Art from the Collection (2015), and organized A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the Studio (2014) and Modern Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection, 1909–1949 (2014) (with Curator Sarah Meister). From 1995 to 2003 Bajac was the associate curator in the Photography Department at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, where he organized a number of exhibitions on 19th- and early-20th-century photography. In 2003, he joined the Musée national d’art moderne-cabinet de la photographie at the Centre Pompidou as curator and becoming chief curator in 2007. At the Centre Pompidou, he organized and co-organized exhibitions on modern and contemporary photography. He has published extensively on photography, including the three-volume Découvertes Gallimard series on the history of photography (2000–10), and has also written articles devoted to modern and contemporary photographers and artists using photography.

Glass House, 2006–14. Lavender Mist, 2014. Inkjet print (Epson 9800 print on Museo Silver Rag paper). Courtesy the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles
Glass House, 2006–14. Lavender Mist, 2014. Inkjet print. 
Courtesy Marian Goodman, Paris.

Robert Slifkin is an Associate Professor of Fine Arts at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. He is the author of Out of Time: Philip Guston and the Refiguration of Postwar American Art (University of California Press, 2013) which was awarded the Philips Book Prize. His essays and reviews have appeared in such journals as October, American Art, Artforum, Oxford Art Journal, and the Art Bulletin. He is currently working on a book project entitled The New Monuments and the End of Man: American Sculpture Between War and Peace, 1945-1975, which will consider the intertwined histories of sculpture and nuclear war in postwar U.S. culture.

Fluid Dynamics, 2009–12. FD1M, 2012. Inkjet print, Epson 9800 print on Museo Silver Rag paper
Fluid Dynamics, 2009–12. FD1M, 2012. 
Inkjet print. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

James Welling was born in 1951 in Hartford, Ct. He studied painting and dance in Pittsburgh and received his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. Welling was associated with the “Pictures Generation” in New York and has exhibited extensively in France, Germany and Belgium. From 1995 to 2016 he was a Professor in the Art Department at UCLA where he changed the photography curriculum from black and white to color. Welling's work ranges from Polaroid  materials, photograms, abstract images, architectural photographs, video, chemigrams and multichannel, digital color inkjet prints. Metamorphosis, a survey show of work from 1971-2017, opened at S.M.A.K (The Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst) in Ghent, Belgium in January and travels to Kunstforum Wien in Vienna, Austria in May. The exhibition was conceived and curated by Heike Eipeldauer and Martin Germann. He is the recipient of a number of awards including an “AICA Award of Excellence for the Best Show In A Commercial Gallery Nationally 2007/2008” given by the International Association of Art Critics, United States Section, for his 2008 exhibition at Regen Projects. James Welling's work is held in major museum collections worldwide and is represented by several galleries.

In its ninth year the program series An Art Book, initiated and organized by Arezoo Moseni, is a celebration of the essential importance and beauty of art books. The events showcase book presentations and discussions by world 
renowned artists, critics, curators, gallerists, historians and writers.

The event is free and advanced registration is recommended. 

Events at The New York Public Library may be photographed or recorded. By attending these events, you consent to the use of your image and voice by the Library for all purposes.

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