Caleb Cain Marcus & Carl Marcus
Jul 22 – Aug 23, 2019
TELLURIDE, COLO —Telluride Gallery of Fine Art is pleased to present Caleb Cain Marcus & Carl Marcus, an exhibi- tion of new work by two photographers from Telluride, Colorado. Father and son, Carl and Caleb Cain Marcus both work in photography, and this exhibition features two decidedly conceptual, abstracted bodies of work informed by nature. The images, manipulated both digitally and by hand, transform their subject matter into ethereal expanses of color and pattern, giving the natural world a haunting, otherworldly quality. Carl’s kaleidoscopic photographs turn the Colorado landscape into surreal spaces, de ned by delicate repetition and symmetry. Caleb’s photographs of coastal landscapes manifest as color fields, wide-open, quiet mediations on light and hue.
Carl Marcus moved to Telluride in 1978, the year of his son’s birth. He raised Caleb in a cabin on Wilson Mesa, and began taking photographs on the long backpacking trips he took with his son. In the years since, Carl continued to pho- tograph the landscape he lived in, and to travel to photograph mountains and fields in Alaska or the Southwest. Caleb took up his father’s art form too, and received his MFA from Columbia University in New York City, where he has lived and worked for the past 15 years. “Our commonality may be that we attempt to communicate, beyond the content of the image, the space that may open a doorway to what we do not know,” Carl said in 2016, about what unites his work with his son’s.
Carl’s Kaleidoscope series, featured in this exhibition, represent the culmination of decades of image-making. Carl spends at least six months of the year alone in nature, photographing what he sees, often creating majestic landscapes. “When I look at a rock, or a flower, or a cloud,” he recently observed, “it seems to have an immensity, a power to it that stops time.” In making this body of images, which he has worked on for years, he went back through his own archive, scanning and digitally manipulating photographs originally made using traditional lm to create the mirrored, repeat- ing, and compelling kaleidoscope effect. Iconic and recognizable landscapes become ruminations on color and form. In Arches Lichen, green foliage repeats, like dabs of paint interrupting the red-brown expanses of desert dirt. Rock faces become stretches of texture repeated on each side of the image and wrapping around to hold the image’s heart- like center. Water Ripples Green Light looks like reflective reptile scales repeated over and over. In Cloud Variation, the repetition is subtler. Washes of blue and violet blur into pillows of light white, the focus on color fields recalling his son’s recent work.
Caleb’s new body of abstracted landscapes include marks made with a grease pencil, giving his images an arresting physicality. Caleb published this work in his second photographic monograph, A Brief Moment After Death (Damiani, 2018)—since then, he has published another book, A Line in the Sky, and his book of red monochromatic photographs, Iteration, is due out from Damiani press in September 2019. For A Brief Moment After Death, Caleb took as his subject New York and California’s coastal landscapes, though the results are largely unrecognizable, separating from a clear sense of geography. He endeavored with this work to imagine the body’s release of energy back into the universe after we die. A new father, Caleb found in the experience of watching his young daughter’s life blossom a reminder of how much and how richly he had already lived. As he writes in A Brief Movement after Death, “She was moving toward life in all its brilliance and I toward death.” The grease pencil, which Caleb attaches to a screen before swinging it like a pendulum over his digital prints, creates groups of linear marks that pull this work further into the realm of abstraction. In A Brief Movement 22, the marks create a dark cloud, hovering over barely discernible waves, against a deep orange expanse of sky. In A Brief Movement 17, the marks are lighter and spread from one end of a field of light blue and pink to the other.
The novelist Richard Ford, writing in the introduction to Caleb’s previous book Goddess, described “everything in every frame” of the work as “enticingly, visually, sometimes mysteriously in play.” He also described the work as “pho- tographic glimpses” that “measure up to the world’s spacious wonders.” Caleb himself recently explained that “space isn’t something empty—it has a physical presence, a weight, a density.” In A Brief Movement, color and marks give otherwise vast space its presence and weight.
This exhibition explores time and life cycles, as much as it explores the relationship between landscape and abstraction. Carl’s Kaleidoscope work essentially represents a rebirth, or reenergizing, of his past imagery. At the same time, Caleb’s work endeavors to give physical, visible form to what dissipates into the atmosphere following death. Both bodies of work are visual force fields, using images of the natural environment to capture elusive spiritual energy.