John Chiara : La poussière des anges
6/11/2020 - 6/02/2021
Galerie Miranda was very proud to present the exhibition La Poussière des anges by San Francisco-based artist John Chiara (b. 1971), the artist’s second solo exhibition at the gallery and the first European exhibition of this new body of work.
In 2019, John Chiara was artist in residence at the Budapest Art Factory residence in Hungary, where he spent time photographing Angyalföld, the city neighborhood whose name translates into English as ‘Angel Dust’, into French as ‘la Poussière des anges’. The negative photographic images he created there capture the city’s particular urban mix of history and modernity, with residential and industrial architecture of different periods punctuated by advertising billboards, electrical cables but also many trees. In a poetic echo of the district name ‘angel dust’, the city’s bright blue skies become in their negative incarnation a fiery orange- black, creating a nocturnal, dreamlike landscape inhabited by ghostly forms.
John Chiara is a landscape photographer whose art is grounded in the physical process of the medium. “The subject of my work is photography itself,” says Chiara. “...(and) its manifestation through its means.” Chiara’s giant cameras, which he designs and builds himself, are transported to locations on a flatbed trailer to produce one-of-a-kind large-scale prints. The design of the cameras allows the artist to simultaneously shoot and perform his darkroom work while images are recorded directly onto oversized photosensitive paper. The camera’s very large size and 18th century technology force part of his process beyond his control and, through the barrel lens, images are projected directly onto the scroll of photographic paper fixed inside the camera ‘chamber’. During exposure, Chiara manually burns, dodges and filters the light entering through the lens, working to change the temperature of light and spectrum of color as if in the darkroom.
Chiara uses careful observation, intuition, and chance to capture landscapes that evoke a personal narrative or visual memory of place:
"Photography has a long and complicated relationship with memory, which seems to always be in flux. Memories are unbound, with divergent edges. You have to move around in them to get to points of clarity. ... The psychological weight of memory burns the visual experience into the mind. As time passes, the tie to what the memory was originally linked to can loosen, but the visual image remains."
As the image is received onto negative paper, light and shadow are reversed, as are the colors, creating a surreal vision of architectural juxtapositions in an unexpected palette. In the Angyalföld work, it seems that “All that is solid melts into air”1 : Chiara’s lacey, translucent trees and glassy buildings against a permanent night sky are a fitting tribute to the shifting history of this country still emerging from communist rule, and currently a populist battleground between tradition and modernity.