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James Welling, "Overflow"

  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

In two new series of photograms, James Welling continues his decades-long project of creating sly abstractions that seem to examine the nature of photographic representation. For one, called “Frolic Architecture,” he contact-printed sheets of freshly painted Mylar onto photographic paper to produce pale, silvery images that suggest a mysterious, liquid universe. The other, “Fluid Dynamics,” resembles the first, with the images blown up and digitally colorized in psychedelic explosions.

Both sets of handsome pictures, however, are mere adjuncts to the main event here: a group of photos of locations in Maine and Pennsylvania frequented by the late American realist painter Andrew Wyeth. In an odd turn to the photo essay, Welling documents Wyeth’s haunts with a kind of hagiographic, Life magazine–style ordinariness. Vernacular charm and weathered wood abound; the painter’s studio reverentially awaits his return—his coat still hanging from a standing mirror. Christina’s World, minus Christina, appears greener, more bucolic than in the famously dour painting.

A few images transcend this overriding banality—those, not too surprisingly, that relate most closely to Welling’s aqueous abstractions. The white-on-white Glass House (2010) features frosted windows that approximate the ghostly photograms. The watery expanse of River Cove (2010), a heavily photoshopped view of a riparian scene, recalls the gorgeous complexity of Monet’s water lilies. End of the Road (2012), a shot inside an old van abandoned to the elements—its dashboard covered in dirt, its windshield glowing green with algal growth—speaks poetically, not of Wyeth’s self-contained myth, but of decrepitude, obsolescence and death.—Joseph R. Wolin

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