James Welling

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Biography

Interested above all in the unpredictable character of photography, Welling deliberately explores a variety of themes, engaging with materiality, abstraction, color, and spatiality.

James Welling was born in Hartford Connecticut in 1951 and studied fine art at Carnegie-Mellon University and modern dance at the University of Pittsburgh. He received his M.F.A. degree from the California Institute of the Arts in 1974. Over the past 40 years he has lived in Los Angeles, where he was a professor in the Department of Art at the University of California Los Angeles from 1995-2016, and in New York where he currently resides. Welling's photographic works are defined by relentless experimentation, much of which takes place entirely in the darkroom. During his early years, Welling experimented with painting, dance, video, sculpture, and performance, before eventually focusing on photography in the mid-1970s. Self-taught, he began exploring the medium’s possibilities by experimenting with various techniques (Polaroid film, gelatin silver prints, inkjet prints, photograms, and chemigrams, among others).

Welling was counted as a member of the “Picture Generation,” hailed for their innovative approach to photography in the 1970s–80s. Interested above all in the unpredictable character of photography, Welling deliberately explores a variety of themes, engaging with materiality, abstraction, color, and spatiality.

Recent solo exhibitions have taken place at the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent (2017); Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle (2016); and the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois (2014). Two major exhibitions, respectively in 2012 and 2013, offered an overview of his work as a whole: Monograph, organized by the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and The Mind on Fire, held at the MK Gallery in Milton Keynes, England, at the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanéa in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver, Canada. In 2014, Welling received the Infinity Award presented by the International Center of Photography, New York and, in 2016, the Excellence in Photography Award from the Julius Shulman Institute in Woodbury, California.

Interested above all in the unpredictable character of photography, Welling deliberately explores a variety of themes, engaging with materiality, abstraction, color, and spatiality.

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