James Welling (born 1951, Hartford/Connecticut) is one of the pioneers of international contemporary photography. His work has been constantly questioning the norms of aesthetic representation since the 1970s. Welling focuses on the exploration of photography, manipulating the images, playing with the medium in radical stylistic diversity that constantly allows space for experimentation. The artist is pushing the boundaries between documentary and abstract photography, playing with transparency, reflectivity, and color, using an extensive range of photographic technologies.
Welling’s practice refers strongly to the history of American painting, at the same time it connects up with the critical, post-modern debates current in the “Pictures Generation” scene in the early 1980s on the concepts of authorship, originality and representation. It can be described as a work of a “ventriloquist”, as he himself once called it, mirroring his capacity of manipulating different artistic languages.
The artist’s work is held in major museum collections and has been exhibited widely in the United States, but has seldom been seen in Europe. The exhibition “Metamorphosis” in the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien brings a selection of Welling’s picture series from the early 1970s until today, showing his work’s development and reflecting on the fundamental change in photography over the recent decades. Welling’s works operate on a hybrid ground between image and material, abstraction and representation, between process and result; and from physicality to reproduction through the chemical nature of photography.
James Willing through his distinguished practice is challenging the viewer to decode addressed issues and ideas, offering a new set of forms and methodology in contemporary art.
The exhibition is organised in cooperation with the S.M.A.K. in Ghent, Belgium.