Monday, January 25, 2010

The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography

Text by Lyle Rexer

From the beginning, abstraction has been intrinsic to photography, and its persistent popularity reveals much about the medium. The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography is the first book in English to document this phenomenon and to put it into historical context, while also examining the diverse approaches thriving within contemporary photography. Author Lyle Rexer examines abstraction at pivotal moments, starting with the inception of photography, when many of the pioneers believed the camera might reveal other aspects of reality. The Edge of Vision traces subsequent explorations--from the Photo Secessionists, who emphasized process and emotional expression over observed reality, to Modernist and Surrealist experiments. In the decades to follow, in particular from the 1940s through the 1980s, a multitude of photographers--Edward Weston, Aaron Siskind and Barbara Kasten among them--took up abstraction from a variety of positions. Finally, Rexer explores the influence the history of abstraction exerts on contemporary thinking about the medium. Many contemporary artists--most prominently Ilan Wolff, Marco Breuer and Ellen Carey--reject photography's documentary dimension in favor of other possibilities, somewhere between painting and sculpture, that include the manipulation of process and printing. In addition to Rexer's engagingly written and richly illustrated history, this volume includes a selection of primary texts from and interviews with key practitioners and critics such as Edward Steichen, László Moholy-Nagy and James Welling.

ABOUT THE BOOK COVER: Bill Armstrong's work featured on the cover of Rexer's latest book
The Mandala photographs are loosely based on Buddhist paintings known as mandalas. Mandalas are concentric circles of images that depict central themes in Buddhism, such as the Wheel of Life or the Map of the Cosmos. Through abstraction, simplification and blur, I hope to create a context for the exploration of these broad spiritual themes that, rather than relying on a codified system, remains open and invites the viewer's personal interpretation.
Like the other portfolios in the Infinity series, the Mandalas are made from collages that have been photographed with the camera's focusing ring set on infinity. Extreme defocusing allows me to create rhapsodies of color that change as one gazes into them: they pulsate as if alive. This sense of "being" within the inanimate invites an inquiry into the idea of the interconnectedness of all things.
Whether seen as celestial spheres, imaginary objects, or microscopic details, the Mandalas are meant to be meditative pieces--glimpses into a space of pure color, beyond our focus, beyond our ken. Their essential purpose is to create a sense of transcendence, of radiance, of pure joy!

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