Ellen Carey

Ellen Carey (b.1952 USA) is an educator, independent scholar, guest curator, photographer and lens-based artist, whose unique experimental work (1974-2017) spans several decades.

Photograms are photographs created without a camera. Ellen expertly manipulates the enlarger in a color darkroom purposely at times crumbling the photopaper to make this creative and forward thinking abstract photographs.
LATIMES:” perfromative sculptures enacted in a gestational space of the darkroom”.

Ellen Carey – Profile

Credit Margaret Fox Photography

Her early work Painted Self-Portraits (1978) were first exhibited at Hallwalls, an artists-run alternative space, home to the Buffalo avant-garde — Robert Longo and Cindy Sherman — to a group exhibit The Altered Photograph at PS 1, another avant-garde institution. The visionary curator, Linda Cathcart, of The Albright-Knox Art Gallery (AKAG) selected Carey’s work for this exhibition as well as The Heroic Figure which presented thirteen American artists for the São Paulo Biennale including Cindy Sherman, Nancy Dwyer, Julian Schnabel and David Salle, with portraits by Robert Mapplethorpe, for its South and North American tour (1984-1986).

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 (1984-88) were created, quickly followed by her stacked photo-installations Abstractions (1988-95). Her pioneering breakthrough the Pull (1996) and Rollback (1997) name her practice Photography Degree Zero (1996-2017). Here, she investigates minimal and abstract images with Polaroid instant technology partnered with her innovovative concepts, often using only light, photography’s indexical, or none, emphasizing zero. Her photogram work is cameraless; it parallels her Polaroid less-is-more aesthetic under her umbrella concept Struck by Light (1992-2017). 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 experimental images, in a range of genres and themes, are one-of-a-kind.

Site-specific monumental installations include Mourning Wall of 100 Polaroid grey negatives at Real Art Ways (2000) and Part-Picture exhibition (2015) at Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art (MoCCA); 50 Polaorid negatives for Self-Portrait @ 48 at Connecticut Commission for the Arts (2001); gigantic Pulls XL used the Polaroid 40 X 80 camera (then dismantled, never reassembled) for her MATRIX #153 exhibit (2004-05) at The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (www.wadsworthatheneum.org); the prestigious MATRIX program celebrates its 40th year. Dings & Shadows, her 8’ft. x 8’ft. color photogram-as-grid installation sees one at Benton Museum of Art, another at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and a third in Photography is Magic at Aperture. Her new series Caesura uses the photogram to introduce visual breaks in color; caesura is Latin for cutting; a pause (poetry) or sound (music). Color theory — RGBYMC — is palette and conceptual point-of-departure, partnered with light, photography’s indexical. As color light blends, bends, and breaks across the paper, what remains are vertical bands, dividing the rectangle in half, its cut or “caesura.” Dramatic lines boldy soar through the composition, colors overlap and ricochet creating form and hue. Carey’s use of the chemical “wet”process in her color photograms comment on the current debate between it and digital, the break between the origins of the medium and ink-jet printing.

Photography Degree Zero (1996-2017) names her Polaroid lens-based art while Struck by Light(1992-2017) names her parallel practice in the cameraless photogram. Her experimental investigations into abstraction and minimalism, partnered with her innovative concepts and iconoclastic artmaking, often use bold colors and new forms. Pictus & Writ (2008-2017) finds the artist tradition of writing on other artists. Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective at MASS MoCA (Yale University Press) published the book Sol LeWitt:100 Views with 100 new essays; Color Me Real is Ellen Carey’s contribution. Her Man Ray essay on her discovery of his “hidden” signature in his black and white photograph (1935) titled Space Writings (Self-Portrait) sees an edited version At Play with Man Ray published in Aperture. On her own work In Hamlet’s Shadow, published in The Polaroid Years: Instant Photography and Experimentation exhibit/book/tour (2012-13); Mary-Kay Lombino, Curator, Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College.

Ellen Carey’s work has been the subject of 53 one-person exhibitions in museums, alternative spaces, university, college and commercial galleries (1978-2016): The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Real Art Ways, Lyman Allyn Art Museum, Saint Joseph University, and ICP/NY. Her work seen in hundreds of group exhibitions (1974-2017): museums (Smithsonian), alternative spaces (Hallwalls), galleries (Perrotin) and non-profits (Aperture). Her work is in the collections of over twenty photography and art museums: Albright-Knox Art Gallery (AKAG), George Eastman Museum (GEM), Museum at the Chicago Art Institute, Fogg Museum at Harvard University, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Britain Museum of American Art (NBMAA), Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), Whitney Museum of American Art, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Yale University Art Gallery; corporate: Banana Republic; private: Linda and Walter Wick, LeWitt Foundation.

Ellen Carey News

  • Ellen Carey: “Light Struck” Solo Exhibition. Fox Talbot Musuem, Lacock, England. 18/05/2023 - A new lens is brought to familiar ground May 2023 with ‘Light Struck’, an exhibition of photographic works by photographer and artist Ellen Carey. Known for her work with Polaroid and named by the Royal Photographic Society in 2019 as one of their ‘Hundred Heroines’ of photography, Carey’s work takes the viewer through a two... View Article
  • Warhol Supports Experimental Photography 20/01/2018 -

    Ellen Carey was awarded a $30,000 grant from the Warhol Foundation for he upcoming retrospective at the Burchfield-Penny Art Center. It is titled Picture Nothing: The Experimental Photography of Ellen Carey 1977-2017. BPAC is planning a tour and it opens September 14, 2018 through the end of December 2018a

  • “Women in Colour” at Rubber Factory, 29C Ludlow Street, 6–9 p.m. August 19, 2017 16/08/2017 -

    Opening: "Women in Colour" at Rubber Factory Organized by photographer Ellen Carey, this group show explores the connection between women and color photography. "Why do women photographers choose color?" Carey asks in the show's statement. "What are the aesthetic reasons?

Discover more about Ellen

Website: www.ellencareyphotography.com

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