At its invention, photography held the promise of directly representing the world, and yet the results were always surprising and even unrecognizable. This play of disclosing the world while confounding the eye, of delivering information but withholding meaning, has engaged artists ever since. In its most extreme forms, it is called abstract or concrete photography, but it is better seen as an incredibly diverse exploration of how photographs communicate and what sort of truth they tell.
The exhibition/book presents photographs and photo-based installations — many exhibited for the first time — that explore the territory of undisclosed imagery in all its forms. These investigations range from artifacts of the process of recording the action of light without the benefit or limitation of a camera lens — Ellen Carey — to direct photographs of surfaces that generate pattern and optical uncertainty, to images that comment on our culture of images. Others test the limits of the familiar. All of these works involve a profound questioning of the role photographs play in contemporary visual culture.
The organization of the exhibition highlights the investigative nature of contemporary photography. An introductory section, “Propositions,” introduces viewers to a range of techniques, visual effects and critical positions. The core of the exhibition is a series of single-artist installations that display the stunning range of these photographers’ insights. They free the photograph from its familiar social and temporal references to discover new possibilities of metaphoric suggestiveness, psychological engagement, and optical possibility. Ellen Carey’s work is in Chapter Five: Subversives highlighting and reproducing her Polaroid Pull, Moiré Monochrome, Pull with Rollback, installation as Mourning Wall under her practice Photography Degree Zero and a color photogram as Push Pins under Struck by Light.
Above all, the photographic objects in The Edge of Vision demonstrate that photography itself is undergoing an expansion of imagery not seen since its earliest experimental days. These artists unleash the photograph from its familiar social and temporal references to highlight its complex material interactions, and to discover richer fields of metaphoric suggestiveness, psychological engagement, and optical possibility.
“The Edge of Vision” is accompanied by a new book, The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography by Lyle Rexer.
This is the first major exhibition in the United States to represent the growing interest of contemporary artists in photographic abstraction. It showcases 20 artists who are redefining the boundaries of photography and creating new forms of beauty.