Ellen Carey (b.1952 USA) is an internationally and nationally recognized lens-based, camera and photographic artist, whose work (1978-2010) has been the subject of forty-six, one-person exhibitions in museums, alternative spaces and commercial galleries. It has also been exhibited in several hundred-group exhibitions (1974-2012) receiving outstanding reviews/essays/articles and often accompanied by brochures/catalogues/books. The recipient of several grants/awards (NEA, CAPS), Carey was interviewed on TV (Nutmeg), radio (WNPR), video (Aperture) and has two short documentary videos — Pulls and Mourning Wall — to her credit. Her work is in the permanent collections of over twenty museums such as The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Museum at the Chicago Art Institute, Fogg Museum at Harvard University, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum, New Britain Museum of American Art, The Smithsonian, Whitney Museum of American Art, Wadsworth Atheneum and Yale University Art Gallery; plus several corporations - International Polaroid Collections, Banana Republic and the Dow Jones Collections while privately held in the collections of The LeWitt Foundation, Nancy and Robinson Grover Photography Collection, and Linda Cheverton-Wick and Walter Wick Art Collection. Her work has been reproduced in The Polaroid Collections (Taschen), A Century of Colour: From the Autochrome to Digital by (former) Victoria & Albert Museum photography curator, Pamela Roberts (Carlton Books, Ltd, London) and The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography by Lyle Rexer (Aperture Foundation), also a group exhibition (tour). Rexer, an independent curator and critic, states: “Ellen Carey is among this country's most committed experimental photographers." Considered a pioneer in the cameraless photogram and lens-based Polaroid photographic and contemporary art field, Carey creates unique images, often monumental and site-specific installations, such as Pulls XL for Wadsworth Atheneum’s (MATRIX#153) and Mourning Wall for Real Art Ways, that are interdisciplinary and uses the well-known, large format Polaroid 20 X 24 camera or Polaroid 40 X 80 (now dismantled), often showing the positives with their negatives, giving equal status to both. They are distinctly abstract/minimal, simultaneously expressed as visual objects seen in the specifics of this Polaroid photographic process. Her breakthrough artworks termed Pulls, which she discovered in 1996, highlight her investigations (1996-2011) into the less-is-more tenets of images with little or “zero” exposure, while creating new forms that challenge their meaning as well as question the origins of their making. Her Pulls, and the later Rollbacks, are historically unprecedented in both photography and art. They introduce the parabola (or hyperbola), a new form to the medium, seen as a conical loop, which has now become iconic and a Carey signature. They fit under her umbrella concept and artistic practice Photography Degree Zero, which references the French semiologist and philosopher Roland Barthes’s (1915-1980) book, Writing Degree Zero (1953). Carey originated this phrase in 1996; she is its senior user and it is identified with this groundbreaking work. This phrase is used in titles for her many one-person exhibitions, such as Ibu Gallery (2007) in Paris; an invitation to a group exhibition at Devonport Regional Gallery in Tasmania (2012) is in the planning stages. Parallel to this art making activity is her work (1992-2010) in the color and black/white darkroom wherein she uses a method from the dawn of photography, the photogram (1834); these pictures fit under her concept Struck by Light. The striking characteristics about these photograms are plentiful; her palette, reductive in black and white is fiercely bold in color; investigation into the biology of seeing are partnered with imaginative huge scale artworks; color theory is highlighted as subject and object; and objects placed on the paper or light that strikes the paper are used in original and free-wheeling, unconventional ways. Her concepts and images begin with light (its presence, absence or a mix) the primary agent in all photography, its indexical and its “prima facie”. Light informs her work in tandem with universal themes such as mourning, love and loss — grief work — with rich investigations and visual counterparts that are underscored by experiments in process and palette, such as photographic color theory, to produce challenging and innovative artworks in materials from the large format Polaroid camera, the vintage photogram method, or realized as monumental, site-specific installations.
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