Ventriloquist: James Welling

Photography is constantly considered to be the leitmotif among all types of art, because occasionally it is surprised with parallels to the real world of images and artists. James Welling (born 1951, in Hartford, Connecticut) is a postmodernist artist. Welling is known to be one of the most influential Postmodernist artists, whom I also believe is the foremost aesthetic photographer, his work unveils another facet of reality through the abstract representations of the world.

Welling repeatedly referred to himself as a ventriloquist. While he was studying the History of Medium, he picked up the word “ventriloquist” and realized that photography was the perfect medium of this word. Welling thought he could throw his voice into different kind of pictures, which they represent him speaking in different languages. In the mid-1980s, his interest in abstraction was driving into two series to prove his desire, on one hand, he tested the limits of the preconceived meaning of objects as realistic referents, and on the other hand, he used the medium purely as a formal tool, sometimes with a camera.

If color was Welling’s core preoccupation in recent years, the Glass House series of photographs — the documentation of the residence designed by Philip Johnson in New Canaan, Connecticut, represents the evolution of Welling’s conceptual exploration as well as his interests about architecture. The Glass House is an integration of the artist’s entire output with a result combines his aesthetic concerns about his career and interest in the language of Conceptual art, materiality, and critical thinking.

These works show the endless transitions between real and imaginary, figuration and abstraction, and analog and digital. Evidently, the Glass House is most compelling photographs of Welling. In 2006, Welling applied his studio practice to the Glass House. He started to create digital images by holding color filters in front of camera lens. The colorization of images were not manipulated in post-production, but rather were produced only through the use of the filters. Utilizing lens flares and refracted light to create the layered and saturated color, Welling indulged in the material photographic possibilities the house offers, the glass wall of the house also act as a mirror, a filter and the physical division between the artificial environment and the nature. He approached the Glass House as a kind of sculpture, a veritable lens in the landscape. The Glass House images conflate Welling’s interests.

The most extreme shots of these images were shot during the season when the ground were covered with snow, with the feature of the offbeat colorization. Mars-like red and orange, primary blue, and purples translucently paint the image, and defying any semblance to realism. Some of implausible and surreal photographs were telling similar story of degrade. Others from the series are subtler, as if Welling were utilizing the Glass house as his personal prism to cast spectra of light that magnify space and enhance illusionism.