Photo-based Art Exhibition 'Altarations: Built, Blended, Processed'

by FAU College of Arts and Letters | Tuesday, Nov 04, 2014
Photo-based Art Exhibition 'Altarations: Built, Blended, Processed'

The University Galleries will present "Altarations: Built, Blended, Processed," an exhibition of photo-based art, in both of its galleries in late 2014 and early 2015. The first half of the exhibition will open in the Schmidt Center Gallery on Thursday, Nov. 20, and the second half will open in the Ritter Art Gallery on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. Both galleries are located at 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton campus.

"Altarations: Built, Blended, Processed" presents works by more than 20 contemporary artists. Most of the artists live and work throughout the United States while a few reside in other countries including Israel, Denmark and Peru. While hardly unified in style and content, the artists' works in "Altarations" blend photographic images and processes to produce works that celebrate, contradict and undermine photographic traditions through altered images and references. The title of the exhibition is derived from Mark C. Taylor's "Altarity,"a 1987 book of philosopher Taylor's writing that brings together his interpretation and synthesis of several modern philosophers' interpretations of difference and otherness.

The artists included in the exhibition employ practices that simultaneously subvert photographic traditions while also employing the medium's salient characteristics that revolve around the physics of light and light sensitive chemistries, some of which use this property to relate and respond to digital image making technologies. While some are dubious and work against computer-mediated imaging and printing techniques, many of the artists in "Altarations" employ and fully embrace digital image-making processes. In addition, several of the photographers are also painters and their work in the exhibition employs processes akin to photography such as scanning, the much older process of hand-made collage, and in one case, painting abstractly over old family snapshots. Stylistically, the artists use or reference to formal or geometric abstraction unifies their work in this exhibition.

While the exhibition's title refers to altering photographic images, a ubiquitous practice in our image-saturated culture, the photo-based art in the exhibition has a much more narrow focus than the work of artists who manipulate photographs. The exhibition focuses on artists whose photo-based works are strategically built through combining, blending and processing images that strongly veer toward formal abstraction while also systematically doubling down on visual and social aspects of contemporary image-making technologies and phenomena. The works in "Altarations" reflect on contemporary image making, consumption and proliferation as well as how the latter seemingly permeates every corner of contemporary life.

The exhibition was selected by co-curators W. Rod Faulds, director of FAU's  University Galleries, and Jeanie Giebel, FAU Bachelor of Fine Arts graduate (2013), who is currently a curatorial assistant at the Margulies Collection in Miami. Both will contribute essays to a catalogue to be published to document the exhibition. The "Altarations" catalogue will also include an essay by Heather Diack, assistant professor of art history from the University of Miami, who is an expert in conceptual art and the history of photography.

The curators admit that "Altarations" is influenced by recent exhibitions in New York that have resonance internationally in contemporary art and photographic circles. These exhibitions include "What is A Photograph?" and "A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the Studio" at the International Center of Photography (ICP) and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) respectively. While narrower in scope than both of these exhibitions "Altarations" is like no other photography exhibition presented at South Florida museums or university galleries in recent memory.        

The first part of the exhibition will open in the Schmidt Center Gallery on Thursday, Nov. 20 with a 7 p.m. lecture by participating Miami artist Maria Martinez-Cañas. Cañas is one of five artists in the exhibition that co-curator Faulds considers to be historical rudders for the rest of the exhibition. The other artists, James Welling, Ellen Carey, Barbara Kasten and Penelope Umbrico, have created precedent setting work for more than 20 years. Whether or not their works influenced or are even known by the mostly younger artists in the exhibition, their works provide a strong example of the themes and sensibilities running throughout the exhibition's diverse abstract works.

            The second part of the exhibition will open in the Ritter Art Gallery on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2015 with a public opening event to be followed by additional public programs featuring several exhibiting artists. These programs will be announced by December.

The University Galleries at FAU are free and open to the public Tuesdays through Fridays, from 1 to 4 p.m., and Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. Group and class tours are welcome during public hours as well as at other times scheduled by appointment. Gallery exhibitions are sponsored by the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County. For more information, call 561-297-2661, email or visit