About the Photographer
American, b. 1951
James Welling employs a wide variety of photographic tools and media. His abstract compositions are rendered as photograms, traditional gelatin silver prints, Polaroids, and digitally processed prints. In addition, Welling has used experimental shutterless cameras, digital, and vintage view cameras to create these images. His works challenge the technical and conceptual bounds of photography, but employ simple materials like crumpled aluminum foil, wrinkled fabric and pastry dough. In mid-seventies Welling worked with Polaroid and 4 × 5 cameras to create photograms and architectural views. He also worked on his Diary/Landscape series in which he paired abstracted Connecticut landscapes with pages of his great-great-grandparents' diaries. This above work, from his 1986 series Degradés, is an abstract photogram made by exposing color photographic paper to various levels of light. In all of his works Welling filters the very tenets of photography, light, movement, and time, through his unique process, contributing to the continuous reevaluation of abstract photography.
Welling was born in 1951 and raised in Hartford, Connecticut. He studied drawing at Carnegie-Mellon University from 1969-1971 and transferred to the California Institute of the Arts where he studied video. In 1978 Welling moved to New York, where he embarked on a series of new projects that took simple materials as subjects. In 1986 Degrad�s was exhibited at Christine Burgin Gallery in New York and in the BiNational at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts. In 1992 Welling began a series entitled Light Sources, an open-ended project that marks his first full-fledged foray into digital photography. New Abstractions, Welling's aptly titled 1998 series delves once more into the abstract possibilities of photography. His work has appeared in over sixty solo and group exhibitions, and is currently represented in many public collections, including those at Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, among others. Welling is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Welling has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bard College and at the University of California, Los Angeles. Since 1995 Welling has lived in Los Angeles, where he is head of the photography department at UCLA.