About the Photographer
American, b. 1947
In an age of big science and specialist interpretation, I have turned to homebrew experimentation and observation translated through photography. – David Goldes
Capitalizing on the visual nuances of silver gelatin printing, photographer and geneticist, David Goldes transforms his lab subjects into dramatic still lifes. In keeping with art historical still life conventions, Goldes stages his science experiments on tabletops. In contrast to this steady surface, the unexpected forms that Goldes creates with simple containers and basic elements appear evermore fragile. With sparse compositions and sharp focus, Goldes draws attention to the moments when different forces and substances meet to physically alter one another. He offers close-up views of basic experiments—such as a magnifying glass refracting light, traces of breath across a panel, and flames overtaking a formation of matches—allowing viewers to not only register the changes taking place, but the formal beauty of these changes. Depicting such reactions through isolated manifestations, Goldes invites us to see the world as scientists who seek to grasp complex phenomena by parceling them down to their most basic properties. Yet, as opposed to textbook illustrations, the dazzling visual effects that he captures are suggestive and mysterious in ways that exceed mere didacticism.
Goldes’ work conveys both the scientific method of empirically assessing shared theories about reality as well as artistic self-expression. Writer and curator, George Slade interprets Goldes large-format camera as the photographer’s means of actively witnessing and testing his understanding of the natural world. According to Slade, “Goldes’ mantra, especially in times of absent weapons of mass destruction and all-too-present financial prestidigitation (Madoff, Petters, etal.), has been ‘nothing on faith see for myself.’” Goldes’ black-and-white series, Water, demonstrates how even the most commonplace substances reveal spectacular properties when we take the time to personally examine them. He underscores water’s reflective and capillary qualities, with Platonic Solid, II (2002), an image of two bubbles fashioned into geometrical forms. The dark backdrop of the table makes the translucent faces of these bubbles visible, while the table’s triangular corner echoes the vertexes of the platonic solids. Meshbowl Holding Water (2003) also challenges notions about liquid’s formlessness. A stand made of mesh and wiring contains a water ball, which casts a vivid shadow confirming its finite volume and shape. Although the elementary skeleton of Golde’s contraption helps us imagine how we might reproduce his project; the wondrous sight implies that it is the experimenter’s vision, more than his procedure that informs the results.
David Goldes completed his BA in Biology and Chemistry from SUNY at Buffalo, New York (1968), his MA in Molecular Genetics from Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (1971), and his MFA in photography from the Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, NY (1977). He has received numerous fellowships, including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (1999), an NEA Individual Artist Fellowship (1984), Bush Foundation Art Fellowships (1981, 1993), a McKnight Foundation Fellowship (1998), a residency at the City des Arts in Paris (1984-86), and fellowships from the Minnesota State Arts Board (1982, 1995). His work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, NY; the Whitney Museum of Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Yale Art Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, among many others.