09
Sep
11

Exhibition: ‘The Mind’s Eye, 50 Years of Photography by Jerry Uelsmann’ at the Harn Museum of Art, Florida

Exhibition dates: 14th June – 11th September, 2011

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One of my favourite artists. Uelsmann’s unique vision and the skill required to execute that vision using multiple exposure of negatives in the darkroom (remember, this is all done with no Photoshop!) is outstanding. Observe the sensitivity to subject matter and the placement of disparate elements in the surrealist landscape. His photographs have real allegorical power and lodge in the viewer’s psyche. My particular favourites are the library and the house on the tree stump. Uelsmann achieves wonderful resolution to inner visions and then makes the dream-like tableaux accessible to the viewer. As one who started as a black and white photographer and who experimented with multiple exposures on one piece of silver gelatin paper in the darkroom, I can attest to how enormously difficult this process is.

The text on Wikipedia states:

“Uelsmann is a master printer producing composite photographs with multiple negatives and extensive darkroom work. He uses up to a dozen enlargers at a time to produce his final images … Uelsmann is a champion of the idea that the final image need not be tied to a single negative, but may be composed of many … he does not seek to create narratives, but rather allegorical surrealist imagery of the unfathomable … Today, with the advent of digital cameras and Photoshop, photographers are able to create a work somewhat resembling Uelsmann’s in less than a day, however, at the time Uelsmann was considered to have almost “magical skill” with his completely analog tools.”

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I thank him for having the creative energy to be a magician.

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Many thankx to the Harn Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934)
Apocalypse II
1967
Gelatin silver print
10 3/4 x 13 5/8 in (27.2 x 34.5 cm)
Collection of the artist
© Jerry Uelsmann

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Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934)
Magritte’s Touchstone (first version)
nd
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the artist
© Jerry Uelsmann

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Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934)
Mechanical Man #2
1959
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the artist
© Jerry Uelsmann

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“The first critical retrospective of American photographer Jerry Uelsmann’s work will open at the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida on June 14, 2011. Uelsmann, known for his iconic, surreal style and his innovative composite printing techniques, has spent more than 50 years challenging and advocating for the acceptance of photography as an experimental art form. The Mind’s Eye, 50 Years of Photography by Jerry Uelsmann, organized by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts will feature 89 works from every phase of the artist’s wide-ranging career, including a selection of rare pieces that have never before been on public view. Additional works from the artist’s collection will be on view only during this leg of the exhibition, open through September 11, 2011.

“The Harn Museum of Art is delighted to welcome this important exhibition of photographic works by the University of Florida’s own Jerry Uelsmann, a graduate research professor in the art department from 1960 to 1998,” said Rebecca Nagy, director of the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art. “Jerry has been, and continues to be a leader in the field and we are delighted to celebrate and look back on such a long, important, and innovative career.”

The exhibition will emphasize Uelsmann’s profound influence on the field of photography through his revolutionary mastery of composite photography. Through the presentation of images from different stages of his works, viewers will gain a new understanding of the artist’s creative process and the evolution of Uelsmann’s ideas throughout his career. The pieces on view will be drawn from the artist’s personal archive of vintage materials, and are the definitive prints of the images. A few examples of the artist’s photo sculptures, artist’s books and albums will give viewers first-hand insight into Uelsmann’s creative process.

“From the beginning of his career, Uelsmann has advocated for the acceptance of photography as an experimental art form,” said Phillip Prodger, curator of photography at the Peabody Essex Museum. “Uelsmann’s photography provides a valuable touchstone for understanding new trends in photographic art. His ideas and work have become even more relevant as photography embraces Photoshop and other computer technologies for altering and manipulating photographic pictures.”

Beginning in the late 1950s, Uelsmann succeeded in combining negatives in the darkroom to create synthetic compositions that conjure the illusion of photographic truth. Although these pictures are visually convincing, they depict scenes that often have no analogue in the real world. Evocative, unsettling, and often humorous, Uelsmann’s photographs are seldom easily resolved, inviting reflection without obvious resolution. His most famous technique, seamlessly fabricating photographs from unrelated negatives to create imaginary scenes, helped build his reputation as an experimental photographer, and cemented his standing as a leader of non-literal photography.

“My visual quest is driven by a desire to create a universe capable of supporting feelings and ideas,” said Jerry Uelsmann. “I am drawn to art that challenges one’s sense of reality.”

Press release from the Harn Museum of Art website

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Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934)
Untitled
1976
Gelatin silver print
19 5/8 x 14 1/4 in (49.9 x 36.3 cm)
Collection of the artist
© Jerry Uelsmann

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Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934)
Untitled
1964
Gelatin silver print
13 3/4 x 10 1/4 in (34.9 x 26.1cm)
Collection of the artist
© Jerry Uelsmann

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Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934)
Untitled
1982
Gelatin silver print
13 1/4 x 10 3/8 in (33.8 x 26.4 cm)
Collection of the artist
© Jerry Uelsmann

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Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934)
Untitled
2003
Gelatin silver print
19 3/8 x 15 in (49.1 x 38 cm)
Collection of the artist
© Jerry Uelsmann

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Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art
SW 34th Street and Hull Road
Gainesville, Florida 32611-2700

Opening hours:
Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
The museum is closed on Mondays and state holidays.

Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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