Monday, June 6, 2016

Preece at Wickiser Gallery

Preece, Woodland, 2014

Nolan Preece continues the sequence of interpretive landscapes that we first saw in his piece at Soho Photo last fall, this time at the Wickiser Gallery on 11th Avenue in New York where he comfortably shares the spotlight with four other photographers, each bending the rules of photographic art in their own way.

Preece however goes beyond the facile jockeying of pictorial motifs so often encountered in abstract photography, and indeed such as even seen in some of his own early works from the 80s and 90s.  With these pictures, evidently his mature style, he has found a way to turn his chemigramic language around and redirect it to concrete issues of ecology.  Somehow - you have to stare at these pictures for while for the sensation to grip you, but it will - he manages to draw the viewer into a ragged, moon-struck environment at a level that is close to the ground; we feel the way a small breathing creature must feel, a bird darting in the brush, a small snake, a muskrat, though none are seen; it is a world under our eye but totally alien to our species, devoid of humans.  In this way it becomes uncanny, and this in turn is responsible for its strangely compelling hold on us.  We should get used to it he seems to be saying.

Preece, Valley, 2016
How does he do this?  By his choice of colors for one thing: inverting what we expect in a representation of nature he puts, in the foreground, earth colors, bearers of life and hope (or a chance of hope and maybe life), and dark colors above, the realm of death.  There are no angels here.  It is a primeval scene that could go either way.  Nothing stirs.  It awaits our signal, our consent, perhaps our involvement.  Here's another picture by Nolan:

Preece, In the Grove, 2014
It is only from the fractured, dessicated bramble in the lower part of the image that providence may come, while the cursed black orb watches from above.  Again, in an apparent homage to Ansel Adams, where 'Chemigram' may be located on the outskirts of Hernandez:

Preece, Moonrise Over Chemigram, 2015
Bright moon of our dreams rising over a stricken earthscape - a remarkable image.  In the years I've been following his work it has only been with this show that his twin passions, darkroom tinkering and recognizing our stewardship of the earth, have come together in an unapologetic fusion that is of the most potent art.  It should be seen.  It runs until June 21 at the Wickiser Gallery.

The prints are enlargements from scanned original plates, i.e. the primary chemigrams on paper, and are available in two different sizes according to taste.  Prices framed range from $1300 to $2500.  The prints are on Epson Exhibition Fiber or Epson Premier Lustre, depending on size and the printer used.  Original plates were either Kodak Polycontrast or Ektalure G.

Nolan's site is