Opening tonight at the Pace/MacGill Gallery is Irving Penn: Archæology, an exhibit featuring over twenty platinum still lifes.
Penn’s archaeology pictures investigate the visual intrigue of seemingly inconsequential debris and junk — plumbing fittings, steel fragments, bolts and bones — in the exquisitely executed medium of platinum. Dedicated to the art of meticulously handcrafted prints, Penn is reputed to have spent nearly 50 hours on the production of a single platinum print. He reflected on this work in his 1991 book, Passage: “For some years I had been accumulating scraps of material that obsessed me: bits of glass, metal, and bone; a human cranium; old sewing machines; a variety of dusts. In 1979 I acquired an early twelve-by-twelve-inch banquet camera and had it altered. . . We made thirty-two negatives between 1979 and 1980. The platinum prints themselves however took a year of work.”
Rich in tonal distinction and elemental in construction, these photographs demonstrate Penn’s deep regard for the print as a physical object, as well as his extraordinary ability to create striking compositions with the most unsuspecting of materials.
Irving Penn: Archæology will be on view from October 28, 2010 through January 15, 2011. To find out more about the exhibit click here.