RPS Presents Ellen Carey

Friday 17 May 2019
4:00 pm - 4:50 pm
Lancaster Rooms, Somerset House
Somerset House
London WC2R 1LA

Back To the Future: The Avant-Garde Is an Address is Ellen Carey’s lecture for the Royal Photographic Society on Friday 17 May 2019 4:00 pm – 4:50 pm.  Ellen Carey’s lecture will contextualize photography as a visual art and game-changer at the forefront of the avant-garde.


Ellen Carey (b.1952 USA) is an educator, independent scholar, guest curator, photographer and lens-based artist, whose unique experimental work (1976-2019) spans several decades. Her early work Painted Self-Portraits (1978) were first exhibited at Hallwalls, an artist-run alternative space home to the Buffalo avant-garde — Robert Longo and Cindy Sherman — and led to a group exhibition The Altered Photograph at PS1, another avant-garde institution. Visionary curator Linda Cathcart, of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery selected Carey’s work for this exhibition as well as for The Heroic Figure which presented thirteen American artists for the 17th São Paulo Biennale including Cindy Sherman, Nancy Dwyer, Julian Schnabel, David Salle and Robert Mapplethorpe, for its South and North American tour.

In 1983, The Polaroid Artists Support Program invited Carey to work at the Polaroid 20 X 24 Studio. Her Neo-Geo, post-psychedelic Self-Portraits (1984-87) were created, quickly followed by her stacked photo installations Abstractions (1988-95). Her pioneering breakthrough the Pull (1996) and Rollback (1997) initiated her practice Photography Degree Zero (1996-2019). Here, she investigates minimal and abstract images with Polaroid instant technology partnered with her innovative concepts, often using only light, photography’s indexical, or none, emphasizing zero.  Her experimental images, in a range of genres and themes, are one-of-a-kind. Ellen Carey has worked in a variety of cameras and formats: Polaroid SX-70 and Polaroid PN film; black/white to color; 35mm, medium, and large format.  Her photogram work is camera-less and parallels her Polaroid less-is-more aesthetic under her umbrella concept Struck by Light (1992-2019); the series Caesura – Greek or Latin for pause in word (poetry) or sound (music) –  uses the photogram to introduce visual breaks in colour, continued in her latest photographic creation the Zerogram, with its distinctive diamond-shaped hiatus.  The Zerogram is presented exclusively by Galerie Miranda at Photo London.


Mourning Wall, 100 grey Polaroid negatives at Real Art Ways (2000); Part-Picture (2015) at Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art and Self-Portrait@48 at Connecticut Commission for the Arts (2001) are just some of her site-specific monumental installations in Polaroid.  Her gigantic Pulls XL in exhibit MATRIX #153 (2004-05) at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in their prestigious MATRIX program used the Polaroid 40 X 80 camera, shortly thereafter dismantled and never reassembled; Crush & Pull, her monumental Polaroid photograms RGBYMC, are on view at the Norton Museum in the exhibition Out of the Box: Camera-Less Photography; Polaroid Pulls on view in the touring exhibit  The Polaroid Project: At the Intersection of Art and Technology, (2017-2020 currently at the McCord Museum, Montreal, organized by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography (FEP) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, and grace the cover of the catalogue that includes her essay Photography Year Zero.


Photography Degree Zero (1996-2019) thus names Ellen Carey’s Polaroid lens-based art while Struck by Light (1992-2019) names her parallel practice in the camera-less photogram. Her experimental investigations into abstraction and minimalism, partnered with her innovative concepts and iconoclastic artmaking, often create new bold colors and newer forms.  Pictus & Writ (2008-2019) regroups her contribution to the artist tradition of writing on other artists, including essays Color Me Real in Sol LeWitt: 100 Views (MASS MoCA catalogue for Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective (2008-2033), Yale University Press); Space Writings (Self-Portrait), on her discovery of Man Ray’s “hidden” signature in his black and white photograph (1935), of which an edited version At Play with Man Ray was published by Aperture.  On her own work:  her essay In Hamlet’s Shadow was published in The Polaroid Years: Instant Photography and Experimentation exhibit/book/tour (2012-13, Mary-Kay Lombino, curator Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College).

Today, Ellen Carey’s work features in over 60 museum and private collections including Sir Elton John and the LeWitt Foundation.  In 2018 the Royal Photographic Society named Ellen Carey as one of the world’s 100 Heroines of Photography that featured 13 American artists.  Also in 2018  Ellen presented in Paris her solo exhibition Mirrors of Chance: The Experimental Photography of Ellen Carey at Galerie Miranda as well as her solo exhibition Dings, Shadows and Pulls at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.  Her new Polaroid work Crush & Pull was ranked in the top five booths to see at Jayne Baum booth at Paris PHOTO in 2018.  In spring 2019, the group exhibition curated by Ellen entitled Women in Colour: Anna Atkins, Color Photography and Those Struck by Light is presented at Galerie Miranda in Paris.

At Photo London Ellen Carey’s work will be presented by Galerie Miranda on the Discovery section of the fair.

Artist website: www.ellencareyphotography.com

Gallery website: www.galeriemiranda.com


Photo credit:
(c) Portrait of Ellen Carey by Douglas Levere


Fair tickets are not required to attend talks