Michel Medinger At The Center For Photographic Art
Michel Medinger's photographic constructions are a worthy opening to the Center for Photographic Art's 2003 season.
Thursday, January 16, 2003
Photo: Dada Descendant: Michel Medinger''s juxtapositions, like in the untitled photograph at left, often lend a touch of whimsy to his work.
The Center For Photographic Art kicks off its 2003 exhibition season this weekend with a fascinating show of constructed still-lifes by Luxembourg-based photographer Michel Medinger, the first installment of what CPA Executive Director Dennis High promises will be "the year of the surreal."
Working with a host of organic and inorganic shapes and forms, Medinger creates marvelously idiosyncratic tableaux that explore the dynamic interaction between object, form and meaning. Like a 19th-century cabinet of scientific curiosities, Medinger''s pictures of incongruous and decidedly Dadaesque juxtapositions of tools, flowers, fruits and vegetables, skeletal structures, marine and animal forms, and machine parts force a contemplation of the nature of life and mortality. Despite the dark and somewhat brooding quality of his work, there is an underlying whimsicality and humor to Medinger''s approach that lightens the overall experience of his photographs.
"I like Medinger''s vision and the surreal sense of what he is saying," comments High, who characterizes Medinger as the "Joel Peter-Witkin of vegetables." "What impresses me is the way he deals with the dark side with a very direct, simplistic and pure approach without being cliched. There are bits and pieces of other artists apparent in his work, but it is truly his own vision and personal statement."
Much of the impact of Medinger''s images is attributable to his refined and accomplished photographic technique. His masterful control of lighting creates a wonderful chiaroscuro of highlight and shadow that emphasizes the dream-like quality of his still-lifes. By muting the background and highlighting his foreground, Medinger''s still-life objects jump out from the print plane in bold relief.
In past interviews in European art magazines, Medinger credits his interest in cartoons as providing the basis for the underlying humor in his work, and acknowledges a long-time fascination with sculpture as an important element in his methodology for constructing still-lifes. One of the more intriguing aspects of Medinger''s oeuvre is the consistent trompe l''oeil effect he obtains by placing the objects he photographs within different types of boxes, crates and picture frames. Medinger also carefully employs selective fixing and split-toning techniques to different areas of the image to create a more painterly, high-art effect. His use of large format Polaroid positive/negative film and warm-tone European printing papers yields creamy, sensual looking prints that contrast nicely with his subject matter.
Medinger has exhibited throughout Europe, and had one of his first U.S. exhibits in 1983 at the Old Coasthouse Gallery in Pacific Grove. According to High, Medinger''s current show at the CPA has long been contemplated and represents a first for the Carmel gallery.
"Michel is one of the first people who ever came off the street and asked me to look at his work," recalls High, who has five other shows, including the annual Center Awards Show, scheduled for 2003.
Regular visitors to the CPA, which is arguably one of the premier photographic exhibition spaces on the West Coast, will notice some new upgrades and enhancements at the Jan. 17 opening, which Medinger is scheduled to attend. With the installation of new track-lighting and hardwood floors at the gallery, High says gallery-goers will encounter a much-improved experience.
"The remodeling helps in terms of how we approach exhibitions," says High. "We will now be able to light photographs the way they should be lit and be able to include more images."
Running concurrently with the CPA show will be a small exhibition of Medinger''s prints at the Chris Winfield Gallery on Dolores Street in Carmel. Winfield, who was first introduced to Medinger''s work by High, was immediately enamored with Medinger''s unique artistic sensibility and currently serves as Medinger''s exclusive dealer in the U.S.
"I flipped out when I saw Michel''s photographs," WInfield recalls. "He has a very European aesthetic, and his fascinating juxtaposition of different objects and the mood and feeling of his work just caught my attention."
Michel Medinger: From The Luxembourg Studio opens with a reception Jan. 17 at the Center for Photographic Art.