Ellen Carey: Dings & Shadows

M+B is pleased to present Ellen Carey: Dings & Shadows, the artist's second solo exhibition with the gallery. The show runs from March 18 through April 22, 2017, with an opening reception on Saturday, March 18 from 6 to 8 pm.


One of the country's foremost experimental photographers, Ellen Carey's pioneering work spans several decades and anticipated major themes in contemporary photography. As part of the avant-garde group at SUNY Buffalo, Carey studied alongside Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo and Hollis Frampton, and first exhibited her work at the legendary Hallwalls artist-run space. The artist has been the subject of several major institutional shows and is in the collections of the Whitney Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others. Throughout her career, Carey has expanded the boundaries of abstraction in the medium. From the complex patterns in her early Self-Portraits from the 1980s, to the minimalist parabolas of her 20x24 Polaroid Pulls in the 90s, through to the current Dings & Shadows, each subsequent series marks an increasing focus on abstraction and color.


Carey's new work investigates the very fundamentals of capturing color on paper through light utilizing the photogram process and signals a return to the darkroom after years of working with the famed 20x24 Polaroid camera. Traditionally, photograms are made through a cameraless process by placing an object onto photosensitive paper and exposing it to light, thus creating a shadow-image. However, Carey eschews using any objects in the darkroom and instead uses only light, color and the actual paper itself to create the works. In complete darkness, she first creases and bends large sheets of photo paper. Once the paper has been shaped, different parts are exposed to and activated by light. Finally, the paper is flattened and processed. By removing the referent-the pictorial sign that has been the hallmark of photography-Carey is able achieve purely abstract compositions.


While the photogram usually introduces chance operations because results are not entirely predictable, Carey's versions enjoy a play between skillful control and improvisation. In these works, one can see traces of the artist's physical engagement with the material. It is through this performative action-the deliberate, sculptural "dings" and fluid transitions of color-that an alchemical magic occurs. The creases and folds create a relief map of geometric shapes and ridges and work in combination with photographic color theory to create bold, jewel-like abstractions.


Ellen Carey (b. 1952, New York) has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions at such institutions as the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT and International Center of Photography, New York, among others. Her work was recently acquired by the Centre Georges Pompidou and included in their exhibition, The Unbearable Lightness - The 1980s: Photography, Film. Upcoming group shows include The Polaroid Project, which will travel to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth; MIT Museum, Cambridge and WestLicht Museum for Photography in Vienna. Recent museum group shows include A Matter of Memory at the Eastman Museum, Rochester; The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography at the Aperture Foundation, New York; Part Picture at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto and The Persistence of Geometry at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Carey's work can be found in the permanent collections of The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C. and Cleveland Museum of Art, among others. Ellen Carey lives and works in Hartford, CT, where she teaches at the University of Hartford.


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To download a preview of the exhibition, please click here.