Chuck Kelton : L'alchimie du paysage (The alchemy of landscape)
11 February - 1 May 2021
Galerie Miranda is delighted to present a solo exhibition of recent works by American artist Chuck Kelton (b. 1952, USA).
The exhibition title l'Alchimie du paysage (the alchemy of landscape) provides us with a direct entry to Kelton's work: exploring and working with darkroom chemicals used throughout the history of photography, the artist manipulates photosensitive paper to create abstract, emotionally-charged artworks that are reminiscent of canyons, mountains, oceans and forests.
Kelton makes unique, camera-less photographs, working in full daylight outside of the darkroom and spending weeks, sometimes months, sketching and preparing each work. A master printer, Kelton is also a passionate collector of photographs, practical manuals and tools from the history of photography. He explores 19th century techniques and chemistry such as gold chloride and selenium, that he combines with bleach and developer to coax a lush palette of colours from light sensitive, traditional silver gelatin papers.
Describing his approach as "calligraphy with chemistry", Chuck Kelton combines chemogram and photogram techniques: the image in a photogram is the result of exposing photographic paper to light — writing with light — whereas the image in a chemogram is the outcome of exposing photographic paper to developer and fixer — writing with chemistry. Kelton often folds the paper in two - a trangressive act in photography - creating a visual break that is understood by the viewer as a horizon line creating depth of field in the artist's misty palette.
Kelton’s works are evocative of other media such as watercolor, oil painting or charcoal drawing, and his glowing skies are reminiscent of Turner, Le Gray, Constable. A recent suite of his abstract work is entitled 'A View, Not from a Window' in reference to the 'first photograph in history' taken in 1827 by Nicéphore Nièpce, Point de Vue de Gras, taken from the window of his home in Saint Loup de Varennes. In a fitting nod to the historical references of his practice, Chuck Kelton's first Paris exhibition will be held at Galerie Miranda in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, situated only 100 metres from the site of Louis Daguerre's Diorama and photographic laboratory that burnt down in 1839.
Chuck Kelton invites us into a romantic world that seems nonetheless on the edge of calamity. His imagery is delicate and composed but also the product of improvisation and accident, resulting in highly atmospheric and timeless images:
"I’m looking for spectacular images, something I haven’t seen before, something that references photography and a hundred other things both historical and visual. A moment where chaos seems to undermine harmony. A moment where you feel threatened and peaceful, a visual dialogue between oppositions; irrational and rational, belief to disbelief, something at once known and unknown." Chuck Kelton, quoted in interview published in LensCulture, 2016
Chuck Kelton has been a master printer for over 35 years and has handled the work of artists such as Danny Lyon, Saul Leiter, Helen Levitt, Mary Ellen Mark, Larry Clark, and Lillian Bassman. Kelton's personal work has featured in numerous exhibitions and publications and is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston; Bibliothèque Nationale de France; Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida; International Center of Photography, New York; and New York Public Library. In 2020, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles acquired several of his works. The artist lives and works in Jersey City, NJ. His work is currently on view at the Berman Museum, Pennsylvania, USA.