Jerry Uelsmann, Apocalypse II, 1967, printed c. 1971, gelatin silver print, 2011.98. © Jerry Uelsmann.
Championed as a medium capable of yielding unmediated copies of nature, photography is often believed to operate in the realm of the factual. The works on view in Consciously Surreal challenge this notion of photographic truth through the purposeful engagement of experimental techniques, fragmentation of the body, and chance encounters. Either positioned on the periphery of Surrealism or working well beyond the movement’s heyday, the artists highlighted in this exhibition nonetheless engage with surrealist concerns in a variety of ways.
Works by David Teplica, Robert Heinecken, and Manuel Alvarez Bravo duplicate, crop, and frame the body in such a way that denies its status as a unified whole, echoing the Surrealists’ preoccupation with deconstructing and reconfiguring the human form. In merging the fantastic with the banal, documentary photographers Walker Evans and Frank Paulin faithfully record incidences of the uncanny in rural America and the streets of New York respectively. Not afraid to experiment in the darkroom, Jerry Uelsmann and Bernard Siegel combine, overlap, and overexpose negatives as a means to arrive at both landscape and portrait images that are rather unexpected.
Other photographers represented in the exhibition include Gail Chase, Konrad Cramer, Adam Fuss, David Graham, Ann Hamilton, Barbara Morgan, Alexander Rodchenko, and Joel-Peter Witkin.