I know of no body of work that better exemplifies that combination of the educational and creative impulses As does every fine teacher, Chiarenza has distilled for us the core understandings from his discipline's past.
And, as every serious artist must, he has carried that set of ideas a long step forward. Coleman, "Carl Chiarenza: tears and pressures," Ag, Vol. See also, the variations: A. XIV, No. Chiarenza's pensive symbols formulate a connection between the mind and nature that elicit inner emotional states.
This work, that often references the landscape, deconstructs the formal media boundary lines and allows photography to merge with sculpture, graphic design, and painting. For Chiarenza photography is a process of transformation and as such Chiarenza utilizes photography's illusional qualities to remind viewers about the difference between a photograph and reality and that they are looking at a picture and not a concrete reality. Most photographers attempt to use the camera as the 'window on the world' paradigm.
Your images are non-representational. You construct things and photograph them.
That seems to be more what an artist does than what a photographer does In some regards, you are more true to the medium than those classic grand landscapes that are so layered-over with the idea of the pristine land. Your approach to photography deals with pure tonalities and harmonies and the way they resonate in a photograph and in a viewer's mind. In one sense by stripping out all of the intellectual components, you are more true to the medium.
Although recorded with a classically purist technique, these subjects result in photographs that appear almost completely nonobjective. In the Stieglitz-White tradition of equivalence, Chiarenza's mysterious images suggest a range of subjective states and emotions. Chiarenza combines two or more images to create a complex sense of pictorial space and movement. Works such as these suggest vast scale, deep time, and a primordial sense of form coalescing from chaos.
Abrams, , pp. Chiarenza's methods could fall into gimmickry were it not for the breadth of philosophical questions that he raises about representation and abstraction as it applies to the specialized case of photography. A handmade artifact -- the collage -- steals away the opportunity for the photographic recording of natural effects. The collage becomes a substitute reality. These two fictions -- the tiny collage and the inflated landscape --clash, and we wind up viewing the works as representing two contradictory things simultaneously.
Time is compressed into an arrangement of scraps spread on a tabletop and illuminated by artificial light. Everything is still, as though time itself could be stilled. Everything is beholden to Chiarenza's relentless conditioning of reality that begins with the collage design and ends with the calculated re-imaging of abstract lumps and hollows as a weird, otherworldly topography Chiarenza's interior terrains mediate between the empirical and the psychological, addressing the subtle boundaries we each cross between information and understanding, between reason and faith.
These are the borders that occupy our minds and influence our perceptions much as do national and natural boundaries in our exterior world. Chiarenza's mental vistas raise fundamental questions about how we come to recognize and assign a value or meaning to an image and how that assigned value then creates new parameters of knowledge and belief.
NY, Abrams, , pp. I remember that my first response to these photographs was visceral and sensual rather than intellectual or verbal.
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This is, at least in part, because Chiarenza's work is less vulnerable to the confusion of image and object which often obscures photographic meaning in pictures with a more iconic or identifiable subject. In this work, scale, tone, and composition are its primary elements. The picture cannot be reduced to a simulacrum of its actual counterpart because it has become something quite different, something, to quote the artist, 'invisible in the world. The transformational power of photography creates greater depth and texture than that possessed by the small arrangements of detritus originally photographed.
Succeeding frames evoke the elegant fractals of the natural world: mountainous landscapes, breaking waves, windblown dunes, or microscopically viewed crystals or layers of tissue We suspend the rationality some pictures call for and surrender to the unmediated and the non-intellective, and to seeing for its own sake. For the first effect of Chiarenza's work is physical.
The eye picks over the surface, sorting for sense when no instantly recognizable representation is apparent. The body feels weight and mass almost as though two dimensions were three. This is an exhibition that invites the viewer to slow down Their meaning is not, like that of many other pictures, directed by the context in which we find them but, rather, exists almost entirely within the frame.
But his 'untitled' works are equally inviting to a new world not hindered by references to a known reality. The discovery of his photographic reality is the key to appreciation of his ability as a virtuoso of light and shadow. If Chiarenza's photographs appeal to one thing over all other possibilities, it would be the exclusivity of photography as an aesthetic medium, which can simultaneously affirm and deny the co-existence of reality and abstraction.
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It is the nature of optical images to seem believable and true to our existence, in the way that our eyes are trusted. But to lose one's sight is not to lose touch with the world.
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So it is true of Chiarenza's photographs where one's eyes are to be trusted less than other means of perception. James L. Enyeart, in "Carl Chiarenza: Passages and Transformations,". He creates collages for the camera from materials that are small and familiar; he then photographs these unassuming still lifes and makes large-scale prints that are, in turn, monumental and magical. Scraps of paper turn into landscapes; the recognizable debris of everyday life evolves into complex abstract form; the obvious becomes elusive In this regard, his photographs raise issues that are evident in other forms of contemporary art, especially in painting, sculpture, and music.
Chiarenza's move toward the larger format print approaches painting in its scale. His use of the term maquette In addition, his work is tied directly to one of the most vital concerns in the art world today: the deconstruction of distinctions between media. In Chiarenza's rich and varied world of the black and white print, formal issues relating to painting, sculpture, and graphic design merge to create a new and more complex kind of photographic experience.
Like the classical music and American jazz which he so admires, Chiarenza's photographs retain a sense of improvisation and open-endedness that belie their careful construction.
When his photographs are grouped together, the resultant ambiance of abstraction creates a visual language of crescendos and tensions that suggest the feel of musical rhythms and a sense of swelling sound. Now the observer, concentrating on each photograph, realizes that the silvery tonalities of the photograph and the shadowy picture spaces attain a metaphysical dimension.
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At this stage the contrast between darkness and daylight suggests something beyond, some kind of spiritual mystery that we respond to with curious imaginings. Rather, Chiarenza reconstructs a new picture by photographing the remains of the package. Moreover, by pushing the Polaroid materials and printing process to their limits, he points to the breakdown of visually recognizable form and material in an attempt to evoke an emotional response. The breakdown of process reinforces the idea of evolution in which forms grow and collapse, attract and repel.
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Interestingly enough, they evoke a subtle sense of transgression from the social and natural to the reflective and inspirational. Chiarenza, for me, belongs to the great wave of Romanticism that lives on so powerfully in 20th-century art. This is gorgeous, heroic, serious stuff, and it speaks in serious tones.
Invention is rampant, he's clearly playing with a number of themes and variations. Related images surface when you least expect them. A pattern or an edge suddenly seems familiar. The mind's eye remembers. I found myself turning around, looking back, sure I had seen a shadow, searching other photographs for a variation on a particular theme.
They are just such a delight to look at that we are not merely able but happy to imagine that there is nothing to them except charismatic shadows worked in photographic emulsion. Yet once we know how to decode them, they function as an indispensable evocation of life. Far more than beautiful or rugged landscape is at stake here.
The negative density underscores the seriousness of the entire territory. Black provokes us. Simultaneously confounding and stimulating, there is the dark there is no accommodating the eye to. Transforming the accidental and chance into composition and formal structure. Transforming the biomorphic and geomorphic into passionate visual music.
Transforming the horizontal reality into vertical pattern. Transforming texture, reflection, shape, modulations of three-dimensions, into mystery and enigma. His most recent works The mood is that of deep night, a night in which no stars appear, yet in which mysterious light plays on its surfaces.