Yolanda del Amo Weekend series on Flak Photo

To help everyone get the New Year started off well, Light Work is partnering with Flak Photo publisher Andy Adams to feature work from Yolanda del Amo’s lovely Archipelago in this month’s Weekend series. The Weekend series will offer new images, content, and promos throughout the month, with posts on January 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29, so keep checking in to further explore Archipelago.

Yolanda has been a steady presence at Light Work since her residency in 2009, which was devoted in the main to working on images from Archipelago. These beautiful images were also the subject of a recent Light Work exhibition, and they are featured in Contact Sheet 159, which you can preview online here. The image Winfried, Brigitte is in the Light Work Collection, and we’re proud to offer Edith, Juan, also from Archipelago, as part of our 2011 Subscription Program.

Great to see Yolanda and her images getting more and more exposure, and thanks to Andy Adams and Flak Photo for helping to get the word out on the best of what’s happening in photography today.

—Mary Goodwin, Associate Director

From the Files: Alfredo Jaar

From the Files is a new feature on the Light Work blog that highlights artifacts from our large artist and project archive. From the Files provides a visual history of our mission to support emerging and under-recognized artists.

In 1989, Alfredo Jaar created the installation Sheer Conviction in the Robert B. Menschel Gallery, our exhibition space located in the Syracuse University Schine Student Center. These are the floor plans for the exhibition that Jaar drew up after visiting the gallery. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Six light boxes, each 96 x 20 inches, were suspended from the ceiling with the wiring hidden so that the boxes would appear to float when the room was darkened. The light boxes featured photographs on both sides—one side displayed images of anonymous protesters, the other side pictures of soldiers.

In the Menschel Gallery catalog (Menschel Gallery Catalog #15) published in conjunction with the exhibition, then Director Jeffrey Hoone writes of the project, “Viewers must interact with the piece—walk between the light boxes from protesting civilians to dour-faced military zealots. Where do I stand? Which side am I on? Who is on the other side? What am I up against? What shall I do? The audience must respond to these questions as participant and observer, ruthless oppressor and hapless victim. We must decide what side we’re on, our silence speaks against our beliefs—we must come forward and be heard.”

Jaar’s eloquent commentary on state suppression, both the apparatus that supports it and those who attempt to subvert it, found a perfect home in the Menschel Gallery.

In support of free speech

As an organization whose mission is to support artists, we want to keep the heat on the protests against censorship by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and their decision to pull the video, “A Fire in My Belly” by the late artist David Wojnarowicz.

Last week Light Work collaborated with ArtRage Gallery in Syracuse to screen a full version of “Fire in My Belly” and to lead a discussion with the audience about censorship in the arts. Both Light Work and ArtRage will be showing “Fire in My Belly” in our galleries until February 13, 2011.

What was clear from our conversation was that this act of censorship was a calculated anti-American attack on the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. We find it ironic that those who want to drape themselves in the American flag as true champions of conservative ideals are the first ones to trample on our First Amendment, just because they don’t like what others use it to express.

Freedom, and especially freedom of speech, is what defines democracy in the United States. Take that away and we become Iran or North Korea. That is why those who want to censor free speech are practicing the most vehement anti-American behavior possible, and they need to be called out.

Fortunately there have been loud and widespread protests by artists, activists, and supporters of free speech across the country. We urge you to join these protests and let your voice be heard.

—Jeffrey Hoone, Executive Director

There is more information about protests across the country at hideseek.org and PPOWpallery.com. Also here are several links about a protest march in New York on December 19:

Protesters at Met Rally for Artwork | Wall Street Journal; Dec. 20, 2010
New Yorkers Protest Smithsonian Censorship | Advocate.com; Dec. 20, 2010

Protesters decry Smithsonian’s removal of controversial video | LosAngelesTimes.com; Dec. 20, 2010
NYC Protest Against Smithsonian Censorship of David Wojnarowicz Video | iReport;Dec. 19, 2010

Finally, you can join a letter writing campaign to alert your representatives and other elected officials that this type of censorship will not be tolerated in America. Click here to download the text of the letter, add the name(s) of the intended recipient(s), sign, and send.

Kitchen Table heats up

In the past couple of days Carrie Mae Weems and the Kitchen Table series have been featured in Jim Hedges’ Artworld Gift Guide for the Holidays, a list at the Huffington Post website that highlights, “. . . real art made by recognized contemporary masters for modest prices.” Thanks to Hedges for highlighting this amazing print, available through Light Work, as well as the other fine pieces in the list, including work by Louise Bourgeois, Andy Warhol, and Kehinde Wiley, among others.

Weems also made the news yesterday when a triptych of her work from the Kitchen Table series fetched the highest price at a Christie’s auction, selling for higher than images made by Irving Penn and Ansel Adams, as reported on the Vintage Photo Forum.

Birth of the Light Work collection

The Light Work collection is an important collection of contemporary photography and at the same time serves as a record of how Light Work has accomplished its mission to support artists working in photography since 1973.

The collection was started by accident rather than by design and as a byproduct of listening to and meeting the needs of artists. Shortly after Light Work was founded as the programming arm of Community Darkrooms, a public access photography lab at Syracuse University, we began to engage the larger community of photography through a series of exhibitions, lectures, and workshops. Our workshops were fairly typical for the time where we would invite photographers from across the country to Syracuse to conduct short two or three day workshops where they could share their expertise and knowledge with photographers from our area. After a few years of conducting workshops led by Larry Fink, Les Krims, Charles Harbutt, Melissa Shook, Linda Connors, and others, a simple conversation changed how we were to provide support to artists for years to come. No one seems to agree on which artist the conversation took place with, but it played out something like this. When either Phil Block or Tom Bryan was taking one of the artists, who had just completed a workshop, to the bus station for the trip back home they were doing a general debrief of how the workshop went. The artist remarked that he thought things went well and that it seemed like the students got a lot out of the experience. After a slight pause the artist offered a candid reflection by saying, “But I’m not so sure what I got out of the experience. You have such a great lab facility, and what I could really use is just the time to come and make new work without any distractions or obligations.”

So a light bulb went off and we realized that a core need that most artists have is to be able to have the time, support, and access to facilities to do what they do best, which is make new work.

Synapse, an alternative video organization that shared the same building with us, had been inviting artists to Syracuse to produce new video works, so we asked to share their artist apartment and invited Charles Gatewood as our first Artist-in-Residence in August 1976. The deal was very simple—we gave him a place to stay, a private darkroom, keys to the facility, and $1,000 and told him that his only obligation was to do his own work. It was probably our good fortune and the good fortunes of the 350 artists who followed Gatewood in our residency program that his initial stint as a visiting artist was so successful and productive. During his residency Gatewood printed in the darkroom and also made new photographs at the New York State Fair, which is held annually in Syracuse at the end of the summer. Although we only invited him for a month, he stayed for six weeks and to show is appreciation he gave us a half-dozen prints he made during his time in Syracuse. Shown here is Human Punctuation, New York State Fair.

We were very pleased with Gatewood’s gift and decided to make it a requirement of each future Artist-in-Residence to ask for a donation of a few prints from their residency in order to have a trace of what they worked on in Syracuse. After just a few years the donations from visiting artists began to accumulate into an impressive collection, and it would take us several more years to organize this great asset and make it available to the public. We will talk about that process in upcoming articles and encourage you to explore the collection online.

—Jeffrey Hoone, Executive Director

Best from the Rest: hideseek.org

Best from the Rest is a new feature that will highlight really wonderful articles from our favorite blogs and online magazines. For this very first Best from the Rest, we’re doing something a little different — I’m featuring a whole website, and one that’s text-based, for a very special reason. Timing and urgency make this necessary.

The website hideseek.org is a clearing house of information about the controversy that has risen surrounding the removal of David Wojnarowicz’s video A Fire in My Belly from the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture. The site offers links to a growing number of articles chiming in on the issues, including the excellent piece written this past weekend by Holland Cotter for the New York Times. The site also offers a list of screenings going on all over the country in support of the work and freedom of expression, including the screening being hosted by Light Work and ArtRage tomorrow night.

Censorship of this kind must be acknowledged and discussed publically. This is the best way to restart discussion and dialog that conservatives, and in this case the National Portrait Gallery, decided that we shouldn’t have. When institutions begin to retroactively recurate their exhibitions based on political pressure, this is bad news for everyone, especially those who would like to make up their own minds about the work and the issues it addresses.

Take a look at hideseek.org and let me know what you think in the comments.

— Mary Goodwin, Associate Director

From the Files: Charles Gatewood

The Light Work files contain all kinds of valuable detail about artists we’ve worked with over the years. Collectively, they help us form a narrative of our history as an organization. Case in point is this letter (click on the letter to enlarge it) found in Charles Gatewood’s artist file. Gatewood was the first Light Work Artist-in-Residence, the inaugural entry in a list of artists that now reaches into the hundreds. In the letter he mentions the day he will arrive in Syracuse, allowing us to pinpoint the exact anniversary of the program.

A press release from 1976 has this to say about Light Work’s first resident: “During September, Charles Gatewood, photographer, will be spending the month in residency at Community Darkrooms. A self-taught photographer, Gatewood’s interest in people is evident always in his work. ‘I like people. Human behavior has always fascinated me especially when it is tied to strong emotion. As a photographer, I try to capture these emotions on film to remember, to communicate with others and to comment on what I have experienced.'”

Also in the files was this thank-you note that Gatewood wrote days after the residency upon his return to New York City . . .  sounds like it was a good experience.

Click here to see images by Gatewood in the Light Work Collection and to read more about the artist.

—Mary Goodwin, Associate Director

Kitchen Table, Carrie Mae Weems at Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is offering a great opportunity to see Carrie Mae Weems’ Kitchen Table Series in its entirety. Starting tomorrow night at 5pm, the 20-image series, widely held as a masterpiece of performance and story-telling within the photographic frame, will be on view in AIC’s Gallery 292. The images were presented to the AIC as a promised gift by Liz and Eric Lefkofsky earlier this year in March, and the installation will be on view for six months until June 5, 2011. Carrie Mae Weems gives a lecture about the series tomorrow night starting at 6pm followed by a gallery viewing until 8pm. If you’re in Chicago tomorrow night, this is definitely an event to put on your list.

In Kitchen Table, Weems uses a subtle vocabulary of props, gesture, and gaze to frame complex questions about identity, gender construction, representation, parenthood, and the nature of human relationships. The nonlinear narrative and issues presented in this work remain as topical and thought-provoking today as when the images were first created in the early 1990s.

Fans of the Kitchen Table Series and Carrie Mae Weems should know that the Light Work 2011 Subscription program features the image Untitled (Woman and Daughter with Make-up), a hand-printed silver gelatin print in a numbered edition of 100.  Click here for more information and to purchase.

New blog features

The Collection Connection is one of several new columns that we are initiating for the Light Work blog. In addition to the Collection Connection we will be introducing From the Files, Best of the Rest, and featuring monthly giveaways of signed prints and books to readers of our blog. We hope you find these new features of interest and plan to return often.

The Collection Connection will feature articles written about work contained in Light Work’s permanent collection of over 3,500 photographs and photo-based objects and installations. The entire collection is accessible online in a searchable image database. There are many great features of the database including the ability to search for any word or combination of words across all data fields and the ability for viewers to save selections from the collection and view or present them as slide shows.

These features make it easy to create exhibitions from the collection and in the coming months we will create opportunities for readers to put together exhibitions from the collection and present them both on our blog and our main website.

There are many things that make the Light Work collection unique. Unlike most collections at museums, universities, and cultural institutions that were built with specific criteria, areas of interest, and noting of connoisseurship, the Light Work collection contains work primarily made by artists who have participated in our international Artist-in-Residence program. An overwhelming number of works in the collection were produced in Syracuse either in the darkroom, computer lab, studio, or in the field. There are very few collections in the world where the creation of work in a single location both defines and feeds the collection.

Also because our mission is to support emerging and under recognized artists the work in the collection has early works by important contributors to the field including Cindy Sherman (shown here), Laurie Simmons, James Casebere, James Welling, Zeke Berman, Dawoud Bey, Fazal Sheikh, Carrie Mae Weems, Andres Serrano, and many others.

So we hope you find this brief introduction to the collection informative and you take the time to view the collection online and check back here for further articles and insights into this unique collection of contemporary photography.