rock abstract --archives

From the archives: an abstract  that would have been made around 2001-2, before there was the ocean of  digital images in social media where people  consume  and discard images so rapidly.  Before the emergence of our image-heavy world,  where it is  no longer  enough to simply ‘make a photograph'. Photography now needs  some concepts or ideas.    

This looks back  to that time, when as  argued by photo historians such as  Lyle Rexer and Carol Squires something happened to photography in the 1960s/1970s that made it impossible to look at art photographs  in the traditional way. What shifted with this event,  it is argued,   was the emergence of an assumption that photography never did simply open a window on the world. Photography  as a window on the world was the  traditional view of photography, but there  had also been artists who had been experimenting with and redrawing the boundaries of traditional photography for decades. 

That event was conceptual art, the movement that saw a gravitation toward language-based art, a lo-fi aesthetic   and an understanding of  art as primarily a way of exploring ideas--then  anti-commodification, social and/or political critique, and ideas/information as medium  Although it often yielded nothing more than ephemeral events or experiments, its impact is all over the art world. Conceptual art introduced to the art world various types of photography that had been excluded or ignored, while calling attention to the fact that even photographs that seemed straightforward often demanded a second look. 

sea abstract #7

As a concept, abstract photography is often seen as  a contradiction in terms. Photographs, after all, always represent some trace of physical reality, even if it is not immediately recognizable. The medium's inherent knack for representation paradoxically makes it an ideal instrument for probing and challenging the language of abstraction.

Consequently, abstraction has never been anything like orthodoxy in photography. It’s always been peripheral to the medium and  dropped in and out of vogue and critical prominence.

Abstraction in  photography generally refers  to  the Abstract Expressionist style and high seriousness of the non-representational photographic  work from the 1950's by Aaron Siskind, Minor White and others (including Harold Edgerton, Stan Brakhage, Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy  and Gyorgy Kepes).  

Is there a movement of contemporary abstraction in todays art photography? Art photography has been  dominated by a factual, relatively unemotional work: water towers, suburban developments, and austere portraits ruled within the prevalent movements of New Topographics and the Dusseldorf School of photography.

Is there a  movement of non representational  photography that makes make visible the tension between abstraction and camera representation,  and which has it  roots in  post-modernism? What is over, after postmodernism, is the narrow view of photography — the idea that the camera is a recording device, not a creative tool, and that its product is strictly representational — not manipulated, not fabricated, not abstract.