In January, Viewpoint’s main gallery features Robert Mackler and James Canning, two artists who use contemporary photographic tools and techniques to create striking abstract images.
Robert Mackler: Urban Art, Extractions
Over the past forty years, Robert Mackler’s photographic activities have been divided between scientifically-oriented botanical studies and fine art images. Most of the latter would be classified as abstract, though Mackler prefers Ansel Adams' term "extractions" because the images are small, carefully isolated portions of the visual environment. “The aleatory nature of discovering beautiful images in an urban setting is very exciting,” Mackler states. “What formerly seemed irritating and unnecessary blight now generates fascination.”
Urban Art, Extractions includes selections from three bodies of work. Telephone Poles, Berkeley is a series of close-ups extracted from weathered posters seen on virtually every wooden telephone pole in that city. “What I saw through the viewfinder resembled collage, a scrabble board gone crazy, or examples of the concrete poetry movement.” Albany Art consists of images taken in a non-landscaped landfill park where nearly every cement and wooden surface has been painted anonymously. “When isolated in the viewfinder, small sections of the painted surface look organized and painterly.” The Chinatown: Oakland and San Francisco series developed when Mackler wondered how anonymous urban art in Chinatown would compare with non-Asian material. “The resulting prints often show an Asian, calligraphic element.”
Mackler’s images were captured on color film using a Nikon F100 camera, then printed digitally on heavy, textured paper (watercolor or canvas).
Robert Mackler’s enduring interest in photography began in the 1960s, and became a serious pursuit in the 1970s when he took classes at The Nikon School and UC Berkeley, focusing on black-and-white printmaking. In 2006, Blue Patch, from the series Telephone Poles, Berkeley, was selected by the Curator of Photography for the permanent collection of the Oakland Museum of California. That same year, Robert and his wife moved to Placerville. He was previously affiliated with Emeryville’s Pacific Center for the Photographic Arts and is now a member of Viewpoint Photographic Art Center.
James Canning: Exploring Visual Mystery
A visual artist who has worked in many media, James Canning has always enjoyed photography and began creatively modifying his photographs long before Photoshop was invented. He discovered early on that patterns within nature are not only beautiful by themselves, but suggest structures and shapes that evoke other worlds as well.
“Nature is filled with patterns we recognize and many that we don't,” Canning says. “Sometimes we seek patterns that may not be there; often we fail to see those that are, and we certainly see them where there aren't any!”
By working with photographs as building blocks, Canning uses patterns of actual objects to build alternate views of the world where scales mix freely, from the macroscopic to cosmic. Each piece uses multiple photographs, sometimes ten or more, that are modified, combined, recolored, and/or reshaped as the theme dictates. The resulting integration may be instantly recognizable but odd, or may be totally mysterious.
Canning suggests that viewers set aside the desire to "figure out what it is" when viewing this work, “and to allow a different part of one's mind to react. We tend to stop seeing something once we think we know what it is.” “There are no right answers here,” he states; “what you see here is what you are. That is, your inner world fills in meaning and understanding.”
To create these works, Canning begins with found objects, textures, and color patterns, and then begins layering photos of those materials. Once a theme presents itself, he locates or creates additional materials to photograph and add, then employs digital mirroring, blending, recoloring, and reshaping techniques to produce the final image. Images are printed using dye infusion on metal to bring out the color and detail.
James Canning began creating and selling art at age 15, and soon was exhibiting paintings, etchings, photographs, and drawings at a number of venues. He worked as an assistant in the art department of De Anza College and has been adjunct professor in Visual and Performing Arts at Folsom Lake College. He owns and operates Belle Photography, a portrait and wedding photography studio in El Dorado Hills. He has acted as judge in various photography competitions, and has exhibited in solo and group shows at Folsom Lake College, the El Dorado Hills Art Affaire, Gold Country Artists Gallery in Placerville, and the Sacramento Fine Arts Center.
Robert Mackler: Blue Doll, 2006 (from the series Telephone Poles, Berkeley)
Robert Mackler: Japanesque, 2006 (from the series Albany Art)
Robert Mackler: Yellow Patch, 2006 (from the series Telephone Poles, Berkeley)
James Canning: Carina, 2012
James Canning: Deposits, 2012
James Canning: Oasis, 2013