James Welling presents a series of black and white photographs of related images that imply contradictions and opposition. They can be perceived as crisp images or indecipherably abstract; suggest recognizable landscapes and mysterious fictions or seem without subject; are small in scale but imply vastness. They are in fact photographs of varyingly crumpled and lighted aluminum foil. The actual subject/material is neither asserted nor denied. While the observable world is referred to, the pictures do not document phenomenal reality. The images sometimes look like deeply shadowed foliage, craggy rocks, caves, or water. They seem familiar as moody and non-specific illustrations of mystery or adventure stories. In his earlier work, Welling paired photographs of highly selective landscapes (distance shots) with unrelated interior details (close-ups) evoking sentimental remembrances of vaguely familiar moments. Welling's photographs are precisely registered contact prints that are delicate, high in contrast, seductive — we see in them what we wish to be there.
"One of my first thoughts about making photographs was to construct an image of great density. That is, the image would be a point where many lines of thought might intersect… With my work the capacity for uncertainty seems to work against provisional readings of the work, continually and ideally rupturing intention and effect so as to rediscover it in another realm."
--- "Images that Understand Us: A Conversation with David Salle and James Welling," JOURNAL: Southern California Art Magazine
James Welling was born in 1951 in Hartford, Connecticut, and now lives in New York City. He received a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University and an MFA from California Institute of the Arts. Welling's photographs have been seen in a one-person exhibition at the ARCO Center for the Visual Arts in Los Angeles; and in group exhibitions: "Likely Stories," at Castelli Graphics, New York; "Remembrances for Tomorrow" at New 57 Gallery in Edinburgh; "Horror Pleni" at Padiglione d'art Contemporanea, Milan; "Imitation of Life" at Hartford Art School; "The New West," at the Kitchen, New York; and "Works" at the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art.