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New Aldrich exhibition focuses on the nature of light in the context of digital technology
Penelope Umbrico, Sun Screen (Camera Obscura) (detail), 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Mark Moore Gallery, Culver City, CA.

RIDGEFIELD, CONN.- The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum presents Shallow Sun, an exhibition of new photo and video works by artist Penelope Umbrico that traces a ricocheting trajectory through photographic history.

Shallow Sun is presented inside and adjacent to The Aldrich’s camera obscura—a permanent architectural feature of the Museum building containing a device that formed the basis for all photographic technology.

The exhibition brings together a series of Umbrico’s works from 1989 to the present, reflecting on photography’s relationship to light and the complex changes that digital technology has brought to photographic image production. Sun Stream (camera obscura), the site-specific intervention into the Museum’s camera obscura, utilizes both analog and digital technology to reveal how we are at a point where light—traditionally the most central element of photography—has become disembodied from the natural world, with even the sun itself reduced to a mere artifact.

Aldrich Exhibitions Director Richard Klein explains, “Shallow Sun explores how the physicality of the image is disappearing in the digital age, and, in turn, how a digital image can now be reproduced infinitely to the point that it can be completely disassociated with the original reference.”

Klein continues, “Umbrico has placed a ‘sunset’ (actually an animation of photographs of the sun found on the Internet) on a monitor outside the camera obscura’s aperture. Although the morphing sun image projected inside the room is naturally produced by light coming through the camera’s lens, it is actually a digital artifact that has been ‘reprocessed’ through traditional photographic means.”

Other elements of Umbrico’s exhibition include an animated video montage of “light leaks” created from smartphone camera app filters (originally made to add nostalgic, chemical-processing-era errors to digital photographs), and a collection of over fifty cereal boxes with the surfaces blacked out, leaving visible only the silhouetted images of frozen splashes of milk that slyly reference Harold Edgerton’s iconic strobe photographs from the 1930s.

Photography can be considered both a technology and an art. If art is ultimately about asking questions, Umbrico’s process probes deeply into the nature of both photography and light in our present moment, brightly illuminating the shadows that technology has cast over everyday life.

Penelope Umbrico: Shallow Sun has been organized by Richard Klein, The Aldrich’s exhibitions director.

The Circumstance Series
Penelope Umbrico: Shallow Sun is part of Circumstance, the Museum’s new spring exhibition series, which features six solo presentations that explore how artists use context to articulate their work. In addition to Umbrico, artists Virginia Poundstone, Nancy Shaver, Ruby Sky Stiler, Elif Uras, and B. Wurtz are featured. While Circumstance lasts the Museum has been transformed into a maze of intersecting installations, where craft, found, utilitarian, historical design, technology and everyday objects sit beside works of art, showcasing how artists take inspiration from their environments. The exhibitions reveal never-before-seen aspects of the practices of the six artists, as each has been an active collaborator with the Museum’s curatorial team in the development, conceptualization, and presentation of their work.

The Circumstance suite of exhibitions—organized by exhibitions director Richard Klein and curator Amy Smith-Stewart—highlight inspiration and its influence across object-making, through the presentation of specifically commissioned new work by the six artists. Circumstance underscores the intersection of installation art and exhibition design, and show how the convergence of fine art, design, and non-art objects within the exhibition format informs creative expression.

In a participatory aspect of the project, The Aldrich invited residents of Fairfield, Litchfield, and New Haven Counties in Connecticut, and Westchester and Putnam Counties in New York, to suggest items from visual culture to be displayed alongside
work by one of the six artists in order to help create imaginative new contexts for the exhibitions.

The Artist
Umbrico was born in Philadelphia in 1957, and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She has exhibited her work internationally, including at The Photographer’s Gallery, London; Mark Moore Gallery, Culver City, California; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Alt. + 1000 Festival of Photography, Rossinire, Switzerland; the Denver Art Museum; and the Museum fr Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Germany. A monograph on the artist’s work, Penelope Umbrico (photographs), was published by the Aperture Foundation in 2011.

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