Transmutation: Photographic works by Carl Chiarenza


November 17, 2012–March 17, 2013


Artist List

Carl Chiarenza


Transmutation: Photographic Works by Carl Chiarenza will chronicle the evolution of the artist’s photography, exploring how his tightly framed, documentary-style images from the 1960s and 70s present a vocabulary of abstraction that would be further developed in his ongoing series of photographed collages, started in 1979, constructed from scrap materials. Curated by Buffalo-based artist and photography historian Robert Hirsch, the exhibition will also chart Chiarenza’s move from working primarily with single photographs to the production of sequential images in order to expand on concepts of photographic time and space.

By hand constructing mise-en-scènes to be photographed, Chiarenza transforms the natural world rather than recording it, contributing to the ongoing debate generated by digital imaging as it relates to our notions of lens-based truth. For Chiarenza, the camera, lens, and exposure time are only starting points for shaping the image. His spirit of experimentation disrupts customary expectations through his use of everyday materials to visualize their metamorphosis into hauntingly beautiful abstractions that hint at horizons, geological strata, and quixotic figures.

Viewers will see how his meticulously crafted images transcend their specific subject matter and evoke an inner state of consciousness that grapples with a subject beyond its external structure. His luminous, black-and-white photographs remove his subject from the everyday world of color into an otherworldly realm. This act of transformation creates a symbolic language that references the physical world while reminding us that all photographs are representative constructions and not concrete realities. Ultimately, Chiarenza’s work invites psychological speculation by encouraging us to examine the unconscious, or subliminal, workings of the mind, thus demonstrating how knowledge can be gleaned through a fabricated methodology.

Artist Bios

Chiarenza is Artist-in-Residence, and Fanny Knapp Allen Professor Emeritus of Art History, at the University of Rochester. He was Fanny Knapp Allen Professor there (1986-1998). At Boston University (1963-1986), he was Chairman, Director of Graduate Studies, and Professor of Art History. Born in 1935, in Rochester NY, he received an M.S. (1959) and A.M. (1964) from Boston University and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1973. Chiarenza has lectured and taught workshops at over 100 institutions in 33 states since 1966. His photographs have been seen in over 80 one-person, and in over 250 group exhibitions since 1957. Monographs of his work include: Chiarenza: Landscapes Of the Mind (David R. Godine, Boston, 1988); Chiarenza: Evocations (Nazraeli Press, Tucson, 2002) with poetry by Robert Koch; and Pictures Come From Pictures: Selections of Carl Chiarenza’s Work from 1955 through 2007 (David R. Godine, Boston, 2008). He is the author of numerous essays and of the critical biography, Aaron Siskind: Pleasures and Terrors (Little, Brown, Boston, 1982), which received a Photographic Historical Society merit award.