William Larson - Photographs New York Tuesday, October 1, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist, early 1970s

  • Literature

    Afterimage: A Publication of the Visual Studies Workshop, October 1972, Vol. 1, No. 3, cover, p. 3, variants

  • Catalogue Essay

    In the late 1960s photographer William Larson began experimenting with an entirely new way of creating images using the Graphic Sciences DEX 1 Teleprinter, a sophisticated precursor to the fax machine. Initially intended for use by industry, the media, and law enforcement, the DEX 1 Teleprinter first scanned and then transformed image and text into sound, transmitting these tones via telephone to be received and translated by another DEX 1, which then burned a facsimile of the original onto carbon-based paper with a stylus. After seeing a demonstration of this new technology, Larson was inspired to explore its creative potential. A graduate of Chicago’s Institute of Design who had fully absorbed the curriculum of innovation set by its founder László Moholy-Nagy, Larson acquired two DEX 1 machines and began experimenting with the variables. Larson found that external sounds added to a transmission would be visually rendered in the finished print. Manipulating the speed of the drum scanner, and varying the intensity of the voltage powering the machine, created other visual effects. Each resulting image was unique, created by the dual transformation of image into sound and sound into image, and printed by a sparking stylus; Larson called them Fireflies. Made in an era when the conventional trend in photography was toward the perfection of a lens-based vision, Larson’s Fireflies series was a notable early appropriation of electronic technology for artistic purposes.


Selected Images from the Fireflies series

Three unique electro-carbon prints.
Each 11 x 8 1/2 in. (27.9 x 21.6 cm)
Two prints signed in pencil; two prints dated in the image.

$8,000 - 12,000 

Sold for $12,500

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New York Auction 1 October 2019