Process and invention: Four West Coast photographers expanding the medium

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Process and invention: Four West Coast photographers expanding the medium
Meghann Riepenhoff, Ice #78 (29-34℉, Big Creek, WA 03.09.20), 2020. Unique Dynamic Cyanotype, 42 x 88 inches.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- From the landscape photography of Ansel Adams and Carleton Watkins to Eadward Muybridge’s panorama of San Francisco, the West Coast of the United States has long been an epicenter of American photography. Process and Invention, a new viewing room by Haines Gallery, brings together works by four photographers whose analog practices draw from this storied lineage while expanding the possibilities of their chosen medium.

The images and alternative processes of John Chiara, Binh Danh, Chris McCaw and Meghann Riepenhoff owe as much to this history of photography as they do to the West Coast’s stunning and varied environs. Together, they represent an exciting new generation of artists who are reinvigorating handmade photography in our digital age.

Meghann Riepenhoff’s vivid blue cyanotypes record the play of waves, rain, and ice with poetic beauty. She creates her works in collaboration with the landscape: By draping paper along the shore, across branches, or under snow, Riepenhoff invites the elements to inscribe themselves onto her materials, using one of the oldest forms of the photographic medium. The resulting artworks evoke the natural world at its most sublime. Riepenhoff's work has been exhibited and collected by many important US institutions, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Chrysler Museum of Art, Harvard Art Museum, and New York Public Library. In 2018, she was honored with a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for her highly inventive, wholly unique practice. Littoral Drift + Ecotone, the first monograph of her work, was published by Radius Books in 2018.

Binh Danh’s innovative approach to early photographic processes has earned him a place within the medium's history. Since 2010, Danh has traveled across the American West, making daguerreotypes of scenic vistas and national parks that reconsider the pursuit of early photographers such as Carleton Watkins and Ansel Adams. In his images of the San Francisco cityscape, the artist revisits sites from his formative years, bearing witness to the city during a time of transformation. Danh's command of this demanding 19th century technique produces images imbued with his own immigrant experience: The daguerreotypes’ highly reflective surfaces literally mirror their surroundings, inviting viewers into the idyllic environs they depict. Danh's work is currently on view at the Crystal Bridges Museum in the traveling exhibition Ansel Adams in Our Time. Danh’s work has been exhibited and collected by leading institutions, including the National Gallery of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the George Eastman Museum.

"When they look at my work, I want viewers to see themselves in the picture and become part of this land."

John Chiara’s large, hand-built cameras render the beauty of our surroundings with a lush clarity. Over the past decade, Chiara has developed inventive techniques to capture the distinctive allure of the San Francisco Bay Area, producing one-of-a-kind images that are incredibly detailed and unmistakably handmade. Prosaic seascapes, vista points, and architecture are imbued with poetry in Chiara’s large-scale contact prints. Chiara’s work has been widely exhibited and collected by leading institutions, including the Getty Museum, Pier 24 Photography, National Gallery of Art, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. John Chiara: California, the first major monographic publication of his work, was published in 2017 by Aperture.

Chris McCaw’s work disrupts the idea that a photograph is simply a representation of reality – instead becoming a physical record of the Earth’s movement and the passage of time. In his iconic Sunburn series, the powerful lenses within his hand-built cameras act as magnifying glasses, burning the sun’s path across paper negatives over long exposures lasting anywhere from 15 minutes to 24 hours, at locations ranging from the Mojave Desert to the coastline of Northern California. Each image connects the viewer to the larger cycles of astronomical time and planetary motion. McCaw’s work has been exhibited and collected by institutions that include the Whitney Museum of American Art, Chrysler Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Getty Museum. McCaw received the Emerging Icon in Photography award from the George Eastman House.
"You aren't just documenting the sun, but wind, clouds, and tidal flows."

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