Carl Chiarenza – Abstract Photography
01/29/2014 5 Comments
I am now director and curator of the Weeks Gallery located on the campus of Jamestown Community College (JCC) in Jamestown New York. I can’t believe I’ve found myself in this wonderful position working with artists from my new coordinates. The first photographer I have met is Carl Chiarenza whose work was shown at the Weeks Gallery this fall in Transmutation: Photographic Works by Carl Chiarenza. curated by photo historian Robert Hirsch. Chiarenza is a Rochester-based photographer who’s been a key player linking the Boston, Rochester and NYC photography communities since the 1950s when he studied with Minor White at Rochester Institute of Technology.
Chiarenza works in abstraction in the great modernist tradition of Alfred Stieglitz and Minor White. He believes in the power of composition–the interplay of darks and lights in a black and white photograph–to transport the viewer beyond the surface of the everyday world. He’s a master of defamiliarization. In his hands the most insignificant scraps of detritus — foil peeled from the cork of a wine bottle, the circular piece of plastic that seals a tub of butter or cottage cheese, a torn piece of envelope, a foil candy wrapper, the plastic seal of a bottle of water–all of these small ugly things become something else in front of Charenza’s large formate polaroid camera which spits out both a 5 by 6 print and more importantly a 4 x 5 film negative. Chiarenza enlarges from select negatives, pushing the whites whiter and the blacks blacker, to make gelatin silver prints on a grand scale like the canvases of the abstract expressionist painters (50″ by 80″ in some cases). In these expansive images the crisp patterns and textures of the small still life collages he works from come into focus as majestic landscapes of snow or sand, forests flickering with light, or soldiers rattling their swords.