All notes with the topic John Pearson | Notes on Looking

Between thought and expression, lies a lifetime—John Pearson considers “James Welling: Monograph”

Between thought and expression, lies a lifetime. – Lou Reed (1) Monograph is a survey exhibition of the photographer James Welling’s work from the late 1970s to the present.  My interest here is to consider the artist’s photographs as well as the installation of the exhibition at the Hammer Museum through photographic associations, excerpts of published interviews with the artist, and various, sometimes contradictory, ideas about photography.  Writing about photographs I find myself preoccupied by the world – what the artist makes of it with the photograph, how the photograph informs that relationship.  And this connection built from the index, record, trace that is a photograph is where I find myself negotiating meaning. The photograph, inherently mechanical, inherently systematic, is unique in its alignment with a single unruly and impulsive sense: vision.  And vision’s association with one’s attention suggests that looking at a photograph is seeing the photographer’s attention. You look at what was looked at by the artist.  The photograph offers attention, consideration, and discovery of the artist’s surroundings.  It manifests perception and makes a sense of the world.  I’m thinking about a photography rooted in observation. “No.  I think that, in general–and this includes a lot of what I see in Chelsea even more than what I see from students at Yale–there’s a failure to understand how much richer in surprise and creative possibility the world is for photographers in comparison to their imagination.  This is an understanding that an earlier generation of students, and photographers, accepted as a first principle.  Now ideas are paramount, and the computer and Photoshop are seen as the engines to stage...