Artist Reception Saturday, January 12, 2013, 7-10pm
Joel-Peter Witkin Artist Talk and Print Viewing, January 13, 2013, 2pm at the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona
Etherton Gallery is pleased to present its new exhibition, Surface Tension (Jan 8-April 13, 2013) which opens with an artist reception on Saturday, January 12, 7-10pm. The exhibition features the photographs of Joel-Peter Witkin; mixed media by Alice Leora Briggs; and photo-based mixed media by Holly Roberts. Surface Tension highlights the tension between the visible, textural qualities of the image surface and the political, social and psychological undercurrents of the artists' subject matter. Joel-Peter Witkin and Alice Leora Briggs will attend the reception.
On Sunday, January 13 at 2 pm, Joel-Peter Witkin will give a talk followed by a print viewing of his own photographs at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona. The last time Witkin spoke at the Center was in 2005 to an overflow capacity crowd.
“We are living today in a culture of relativism, political correctness and secularism. I disagree with all those ideas. Life is a struggle and I show it as it really is…My work has always shown the splendor and miseries of the human condition. That has always been the meaning of art. Deformity can be found in Vinci, Velasquez, Goya or Dix. Abnormal sexuality has always existed. These acts are not only part of history; they are part of the history of conscience, the history of souls…My job is to make images which show our time. Images which shine light in the darkness.” Joel-Peter Witkin
Etherton Gallery is pleased to present a selection of recent and classic photographs by Joel-Peter Witkin in Surface Tension. Over the course of his career, Joel-Peter Witkin has engaged the viewer by juxtaposing the dynamic surface of his images against a range of controversial subjects drawn from a deep knowledge of art and photographic history, contemporary events and religion, incorporating his “history of conscience” into painstakingly constructed tableaux. Before he picks up his camera, Witkin makes precise preliminary sketches. He takes few photographs and makes only a limited number of his sumptuous prints. In the darkroom, he takes tremendous risks with his master negative, scraping, tearing, sanding, writing, and scratching its surface. Witkin also works his prints, finishing them with paint, retouching, cutting, collaging and coating them with encaustic. As a result, while he editions his photographs, no two are exactly alike. The subjects of Witkin’s images – the body, the nude and the still life -- are equally controversial. His models, found through random encounters or classified ads are often deformed or live on the margins – transsexuals, sadomasochists, dwarfs, amputees, and androgynes. Yet Witkin finds beauty in the grotesque, equal to the exquisite women that also occasionally inhabit his photographs. Redeploying religious iconography and myth as well as art history and pop culture, he highlights the humanity of his subjects. His memento mori and vanitas images follow a line-up of great painters from Raphael, Rubens, Goya, and Courbet to the great Romantic painter, Théodore Géricault, who painted dismembered bodies of condemned prisoners, and the mentally ill inmates of the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. As other great artists before him, in the end Witkin dispenses with convention, creating his own thoughtful meditation on the human condition.
Alice Leora Briggs, whose work shares an affinity with Joel-Peter Witkin’s photographs, is best known for her meticulously rendered sgraffito (scratchboard) drawings, allegorical responses to political violence, particularly the epidemic of brutal slayings in the US/Mexico border town of Juarez. Surface Tension highlights new work by Briggs, including her exploration of new media: burn drawings, woodcuts and prints. Woodcut is the oldest technique in printmaking and was widely used in book making following the invention of the Guttenberg printing press. The process produces a print from a design cut in a block of wood. Briggs says that making the woodcuts is a far more physically demanding process in which she gouges, extracts, carves, slashes, scratches, incises, and gashes with cruder tools that cut more deeply and deliberately than her sgraffito drawings. This experience is cathartic, and when combined with the diaristic style of the burn drawings, satisfies the need to respond to the landscapes of violence to which she is drawn as an artist, in an immediate, physical way.
Surface Tension highlights recent photo based mixed media by New Mexico artist Holly Roberts. Roberts layers her paintings with photographs; working intuitively, she builds up the surface and meaning of her work through photo-collage and deft use of paint. However, unlike Witkin whose use of paint is integrated into his photographs, Roberts separates paint and photography, calling attention to the special properties of each. Roberts uses her own photographs for her collages. She cuts and shapes these fragments before adhering them to the painted surface. These bits and pieces, construct a narrative that reveals itself as she works. Thus the interaction of texture with her wide-ranging socially conscious subject matter from environmental degradation and our loss of faith to the fear of aging – create the poetic connections that attract us to her vision of the world.
Surface Tensions: Alice Leora Briggs, Holly Roberts, Joel-Peter Witkin
opens January 8 and runs through April 13, 2013. An artist reception will be held Friday, January 12, 2013, 7-10pm, which will be attended by Joel-Peter Witkin and Alice Leora Briggs. On Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 2pm, Joel-Peter Witkin will give a talk followed by a print viewing of his photographs at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona. Etherton Gallery is located in SoCo, the cultural district South of Congress, 135 South 6th Avenue in downtown Tucson. The gallery is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-5pm and by appointment. For more information about the exhibition or Joel-Peter Witkin’s talk at the Center for Creative Photography, please contact Etherton Gallery at (520) 624-7370 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about the talk is also available on the Center for Creative Photography website, www.creativephotography.com.