Everything Old Is New Again
Art and technology tend to have a love-hate relationship. Some artists embrace the latest technologies as new tools with which to create. Other artists react against new technologies, embracing instead traditional even antique mediums. Examples of both impulses can currently be seen in a pair of remote and unrelated exhibitions that nonetheless beg to be considered together.
Sonia Landy Sheridan: Art’s Passionate Pilgrim at Dartmouth College’s Hood Museum of Art in Hanover, NH (through January 3) is an exhibition of work by an artist who explored the creative possibilities of emerging imaging technologies, including the Xerox photocopier and 3M Thermo-Fax copier.
Sonia Landy Sheridan began her experiments with photocopiers as a function of generating posters and broadsides for antiwar protests in the 1960s, then from 1970 to 1980 she ran the Generative Systems program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2002, Sheridan, a Hanover resident, donated 600 of her works created between 1949 and 2002 to the Hood Museum.
Sheridan’s pioneering aesthetic research into the implications of the communications revolution for art led her to work in at least 31 different imaging technologies from reprography to computer animation and digital imaging. Working at the nexus of science, technology, and art, she produced a body of work that is essentially about visualizing change over time.
Going Forward, Looking Back – Practicing Historic Photographic Processes in the 21st Century at the University of New England Art Gallery in Portland, Me (November 17 to January 31) features 150 photographs by 24 contemporary photographers who, eschewing the new, employ vintage photographic technologies in pursuit of their art. They are not, however, conservative throwbacks, but rather part of a pervasive trend in contemporary photography, artists employing 19th century means to 21st century ends.
Curated by Stephen Halpert, Going Forward – Looking Back features tintypes by Keliy Anderson-Staley, ziatypes by Jon Bakos, cyanotypes by Laura Blacklow, large color pinhole photographs by Robert Calafiore, collodian prints by Bev Conway, palladium prints by Tillman Crane, pinholes by Walter Crump, photos in a variety of mediums by Dan Estabrook, argyrotypes by Jesseca Ferguson, ambrotypes by Mary Frey, tintypes by Nate Gibbons, photogravure by Jon Goodman, cynotypes by Brenton Hamilton, palladiums by Sean Harris, gum bichromate prints by Cig Harvey, salt prints by Christopher James, kallitypes by Niles Lund, cyanotypes by Peter Madden, ambrotypes by David Puntel, albumen prints by Gary Samson, ziatypes by Jessica Somers, carbon prints by Dana Strout, and platinum palladium prints by both David Strasburger and David Wolfe.
Most of the photographers have New England connections, but the critical mass of photographers turning to vintage technologies is part of an international migration of artists to mediums that require more skill and work as digital technology put the means of taking, editing, and printing photographs into the hands of anyone with a digital camera and a computer.
[Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover NH, 603-646-2808. University of New England Art Gallery, 716 Stevens Ave., Portland ME, 207-221-4499.]