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The Hammer Museum is the only West Coast venue for major James Welling exhibition
James Welling. 0469, 2009. Inkjet print. 33 11/16 x 50 1/2 in. (85.5 x 128.3 cm). Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Purchase.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Lauded by photographers, artists, and critics for his influence on the contemporary generation of art photographers, James Welling (b. 1951) has created beautiful and uncompromising photographs for over thirty-five years. Operating in the hybrid ground between painting, sculpture, and traditional photography, Welling is first and foremost a photographic practitioner enthralled with the possibilities of the medium. His wide ranging subjects and techniques are in themselves an investigation into so many different aspects of photography, from representational and abstract, black and white to color, film based, digital, and works created without a camera. James Welling: Monograph provides the most thorough presentation of the artist’s work to date, offering an indispensable exhibition survey of this artist’s remarkable, foundational practice. James Welling: Monograph is organized by the Cincinnati Art Museum and curated by James Crump, former Cincinnati Art Museum chief curator. The Hammer's presentation was organized by Cynthia Burlingham, Deputy Director, Curatorial Affairs.

“We are so pleased and proud to have James Welling: Monograph at the Hammer,” says Hammer Director Annie Philbin. “Jim is a very familiar face around the Museum; not only is he UCLA faculty, but he has also served on our Artist Council and Board of Overseers. His work critically engages with the history, process, and materials of photography in a way that continually helps us understand and redefine the medium. His practice is as scholarly and investigative as it is exquisitely beautiful.”

Since the mid-1970s, Welling’s work has fluidly explored a mercurial set of issues and ideas: personal and cultural memory, the tenets of realism and transparency, abstraction and representation, optics and description, and the material and chemical nature of photography. To date, the artist has been the subject of numerous catalogs addressing more than twenty-five individual bodies of work—Welling’s “substantive investigation of the spectrum of abstract to figurative,” as one critic has described it. Yet no exhibition has been mounted with the ambition of linking these bodies of work together by examining the primary threads that run through them all. That is, until now. James Welling: Monograph presents nearly 200 photographs, including important early and iconic works from the 1970s to the present. In addition, the Hammer installation includes works drawn from his personal archive, including drawings and watercolors related to his process, as well as works and material from his personal collection—such as small painting made by his great grandfather and gels and negatives—that help give insight into his process and a greater context for his practice.

“In his fifteen years at UCLA Jim has been an influential teacher for so many young artists. He is also an important part of the Hammer community and has gifted works of his own and other artists to our collections,” remarks Cynthia Burlingham. “Jim is a ‘regular’ in the Grunwald Center study room where he shows his students everything from Renaissance prints to contemporary photographs. He is part of the Hammer family.”

James Welling has exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally. In 1999 he received the DG Bank-Forder Prize in Photography from the Sprengel Museum in Hannover, Germany. Solo exhibition venues include Regen Projects, Los Angeles; David Zwirner, New York; Maureen Paley, London; Galerie Nelson-Freeman, Paris; Wako Works of Art, Tokyo; Donald Young Gallery, Chicago; and Galerie Nächst St. Stephan, Vienna. Welling is a professor in the UCLA Department of Art, where he has taught for over fifteen years, and a visiting professor at Princeton University.

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