Ellen Carey : Mirrors of chance       7/09 - 20/10/2018 

Mirrors of chance, la photographie expérimentale is a solo exhibition by the American experimental photographer that highlights Carey’s investigation into minimalism and abstraction in photograms, under her darkroom practice Struck by Light (1992-2018).

Carey is highly regarded for her work that digs deeper into color’s mother lode in new and experimental ways. Color is subject and object, material with meaning, process within the art. This gives her work context vis-à-vis the field of color photography, a rich area in scholarship relatively “under-exposed” to borrow a photographic term.

Photography and art, like music, are universal languages, as is color. Color is an artist’s universe and photographic color theory, RGBYMC, photography’s planet. Light is photography’s indexical and light is color; in nature, when light and color mix, we see a rainbow. What must be recognized is that, while working in the color darkroom, no light – zero - is allowed except upon exposure. Ellen Carey’s imagination, experience and skills, although hidden within that light-tight black box, are thus recorded, delivering a different kind of photographic document. Her performances are her documents, they - the color photograms - are mirrors of chance while her expressive and luminous palette uses photographic color as a conceptual point-of-departure. Her artistic acumen intentionally breaks taboos; i.e. removing the ‘referent’ (lace/leaf) seen in a traditional photogram. She explores the oneiric, dream-like unknown by using non-traditional approaches to her process-driven ideas, i.e. the paper’s topographies see a rich array of folds and crushes, her handmade “blow-up” of “dings”, a professional ‘no-no’, that catch her “shadows”, another thematic area of interest (shadow/silhouette, light/dark, positive/negative) for the artist (see Mourning Wall, SelfPortrait at 48, and Stopping Down). She underscores her concepts - light, no light or half-light - by using only light, photography’s indexical, adding content to context. Nothing, zero again, comes between it and light-sensitive paper, seen in her Dings & Shadows (2010-2018).

“How is this picture made?” and “What is this a picture of?” are questions often asked about Ellen Carey’s work. They address photography as process and the conundrum of an image without a picture ‘sign’ to read, as seen in the photographic landscape, portrait or still life. Furthermore, light’s immateriality challenges its makers today, analog versus digital, and doubles our challenges. To the question “What is a 21st century photograph?” Carey’s answer is to partner 19th century photogram with 21th century color technology. To “What do these two have in common?” and “Where do they overlap?”, she answers with the Zerogram, Carey’s newest photogram-as-object, seen for the first time at Galerie Miranda. The Zerogram is also a conceptual and physical link to Ellen Carey’s artistic Polaroid practice in Photography Degree Zero (1996-2018), referencing Roland Barthes’ Writing Degree Zero. The exhibition’s title Mirrors of Chance is also a limited-edition book of 200, published by The Amon Carter Museum of American Art (Fort Worth, Texas) in tandem with her current solo exhibition Ellen Carey : Dings, Shadows and Pulls.

Ellen Carey (b. 1952, USA) has been featured many times at Paris PHOTO by M+B, her Los Angeles gallery, and she featured in last year’s group exhibition PhotoPlay: Lucid Objects by Mark S. Roe, Curator for the JP Morgan Chase Collection and Paris PHOTO sponsor. The Centre Pompidou highlighted Carey’s work in a group exhibition The Unbearable Lightness - The 1980s - Photography, Film (2016) curated by Karolina Lewandowska, presenting several of Carey’s Self-Portraits (1983- 1988), her first color images in the large format Polaroid 20 X 24, using multiple exposures depicting patterns of Neo-Geo, psychedelic designs, super-imposed and cascading over her head and shoulders. This back-to-the future gestalt delivered bright colors and a seamless composition noted for her prescient ideas that pointed to the-now digital future. These self-portraits add to the history of the “self” in photography and to women photographers’ place in that history, while enlarging and encompassing the “self” as a different kind of “other” (see artist statement). Ellen, her Irish Catholic name, in Gaelic/Celtic means ‘bringer of light’ while photography is drawing with light, a vintage phrase used by its earliest practitioners, both phrase and photogram continues today.

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