James Welling - ULTIMATE Evening & Photographs Day Sales London Thursday, May 17, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Xavier Hufkens, Brussels

  • Literature

    James Welling: Monograph, New York: Aperture, 2013. pp. 212-213, 217
    James Welling: Photographs 1974-1999, Columbus: Wexner Center for the Arts, 2000, n.p.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Titles: August 16a (B78), 1980; January 8 (B2), 1980; (B91), 1980; (B24), 1980; Spiral (B3), 1980; Crescendo (B89), 1980; (B38), 1980; August 16B (B79), 1980

    ‘I wanted to make photographs that you could not describe, you could not remember but were still, nevertheless, very sharp and clear.’

    James Welling

    After moving to New York in late 1978, James Welling worked shifts in a restaurant kitchen to support himself as he experimented with his art. During one shift in late December 1979, he noticed a piece of butter wrapped in aluminium foil and photographed it against a white background. Just over a year later on 1 January 1980, he started working on his seminal Aluminum Foil series. Over an intensive 16-month period, he conducted a material investigation of foil, making over 200 negatives, around 50 of which he printed, and 38 of which he exhibited at New York’s Metro Pictures in March 1981. To create these disorienting, seemingly abstract contact prints, Welling photographed the interplay of light on the dark background of aluminium foil that he had densely crumpled and then unfolded. He describes the foil as having a ‘glittering sensuality’ – the direct result of his decision to carefully underexpose the prints during the printing process. In the 1980s he printed these images in two sizes, choosing the smaller 4 x 5 inch format offered here in order to maintain the ambiguity of the images and encourage the viewer to unmask their hidden meanings.


Untitled from Aluminum Foil

Eight gelatin silver contact prints, printed 1980s, mounted.
Each: 11.7 x 9.6 cm (4 5/8 x 3 3/4 in.) or the reverse.
Each initialled, titled, dated by the artist and four prints annotated in another hand, all in ink on the mount.

£8,000 - 12,000 

Contact Specialist
Genevieve Janvrin
Co-Head of Photographs, Europe
+33 1 53 71 77 87

Yuka Yamaji
Co-Head of Photographs, Europe
+44 20 7318 4098

ULTIMATE Evening & Photographs Day Sales

London Auction 18 May 2018