Tag Archives: Erik Larsen

Curating Rendering The Spirit

If you’ve never curated a group show before, especially one with international reach, it’s hard to imagine the level of effort that goes into putting on an art exhibit. You have to put out the call for entries, manage the publicity to make sure you get enough work submitted to fill the walls even after reviewing and editing, and then handle the acceptance emails and collect the accepted work.

Oh, and be prepared for things not working out as planned. I feel extremely lucky we had only two hiccups with submitted work. One was minor – one piece of work came off its mounting in transit. With a quick email to the artist, I got his permission to open the frame and re-mount the work properly so it would present well on the wall. In the process, I also replaced the source of the problem (gummy adhesive squares that were NOT archival) with water-activated linen tape loops using acid-free wheat paste for adhesive. No artist’s work is going to be damaged by me on my watch!

The second hiccup was totally beyond anyone’s control, which is what made it so maddening. Yugo Ito’s photograph coming from Japan was shipped in plenty of time to arrive at the gallery. However, it got stuck in customs in New York for almost two weeks. There was nothing to be done but to wait, as customs is a black hole into which things enter and exit at their own pace and there is no transparency or communications possible beyond checking the tracking number on the USPS website. Creativity saved the day, though – since the actual work was not in the gallery for the opening, I took the JPEG of the work from the submission and printed it, mounting it to the wall with a sheet of glass and some L-pins. It would be represented in spirit even if not in actuality.

Once all the work has arrived, you have to plan how you’re going to hang it. You can look at JPEGs all you want, and generally gauge which artist’s works should hang next to which other artist, but the actual sequencing and spacing can’t really be figured out until you have the actual framed work in hand at the gallery. Next it’s measure, measure, measure, and then plan, and re-measure, before driving the first nail into the wall. Having gallery interns to help with the hanging makes life so much easier (Shout-out to my interns! Thank you!!).

Now the work is all hung, you can relax, right? NO. Then it’s plan the reception, send out the invites, send out the press releases, buy too much cheese and crackers at Costco, and then throw a party. There’s the curator’s remarks to prepare, and handouts about the work to write. Oh, and blogging about it all the while!

At some point during the show, ideally right after you’ve hung the work but before the public comes in to see it, you document the exhibit. Below are a few excerpts from the show as hung. One of the great challenges of curating a show is that once you have it up on the wall, what might look good in the space presents a wicked challenge to document. Trying to photograph pieces in corners where you can’t get a light on them from the other side means that you’ll either have dramatic falloff in the scene from one side to the other, or you’ll have a hideous reflection of your umbrella or other diffuser in the picture glass. I opted for a bit of falloff rather than reflections where possible because the falloff can be compensated for to a degree in Photoshop – a big blinding white reflection of an umbrella cannot.

Atalie Brown
Atalie Brown
Barbara Maloney
Barbara Maloney
Bruce Schultz
Bruce Schultz
Eddie Hirschfield
Eddie Hirschfield
Erik Larsen
Erik Larsen
Ian Leake
Ian Leake
Marek Matusz
Marek Matusz
Yugo Ito
Yugo Ito

You’re not done until the show is over, the work taken down, and the artists have picked up their work or you’ve shipped it off to hither and yon. Then you get to relax for a day or two, and if you’re a busy curator, it’s back to the process all over again!

Rendering The Spirit: Interview with Erik Larsen

Could you tell me your name?

Erik Larsen

Where are you from?

Grand Junction, Colorado

How did you get into photography as an art medium (as opposed to casual or professional use)?

My interest in using photography as an art medium was sort of chosen for me. I cannot paint or draw very well at all, hence I took to photography to satisfy my creative needs. I enjoy the varied and beautiful geography that surrounds me in Colorado and I want to try
to put what I feel and see in the landscape onto a print that the viewers will connect with.

Which alternative processes do you practice?

I’ve got a little A.D.D. when it comes to the different alternative processes. I use platinum/palladium, kallitype, albumen and gum printing as my “go to” methods, but if I feel the image warrants a different process or if I just want to see what a print looks like in another process I’ll use cyanotype, gumoils, carbon.

What attracted you to alternative processes in general?

Flexibility in appearance of the print is what the interest in alternative processes is for me. So much can be done to influence the final look of a print it is almost limitless. I also really enjoy spending hours in the darkroom, it is very satisfying for me. Being able to print on many different papers types with all the textures and tones available is a big plus in my attraction to alternative processes.

What drew you to the specific media you practice?

Sort of similar to the above question, it is very flexible in what can be achieved in the look and feel of an image. You can get a straight platinum/palladium look, or if you add a little gum over the print it can totally change the character of the print. I enjoy the gum over process (platinum/palladium or kallitype) because if all I want to do is enhance the shadows without affecting the rest of the print it is a good solution. On the other hand, I might change the whole tone of a platinum print with a deep gum printing over the top. The flexible nature I guess would be reason for the processes I use.

How does the choice of media influence your choice of subject matter (or vice versa)?

I am primarily a landscape photographer. I have never been into printing large prints, rarely over 11×14 inches in size. I want the viewer to get close to the print, study it for all it glory and flaws. I don’t know if it is a conscious decision for me to choose my media based on the subject matter, but I prefer for my images an intimate up close experience and I feel the processes I use are what fits my style best.

In today’s mobile, electronic world of instant communication and virtual sharing of images, how important is it to you to create hand-made images?

It’s paramount! We are saturated with images all day long. There is a certain satisfaction for me to spend countless hours printing and reprinting and image until I get what I want and I hope viewers will appreciate the effort involved, sometimes that hope is in vain but it means something to me to make a hand made image.

Is your choice to practice alternative, hand-made photography a reaction to, a complement to, or not influenced by the world of digital media?

I’m not influenced by digital media really at all. It doesn’t interest me as a tool as I enjoy using film and am comfortable with it’s attributes and limitations. If I’m honest I guess I kind of enjoy being one of a few alternative printers versus being one in a billion digital photographers.

Do you incorporate digital media into your alternative process work?

Not in a serious way. I may use a digital negative if the film negative is unsuitable to use for the given process I wish to print in.

If so, how do you incorporate it? Is it limited to mechanical reproduction technique, or does it inform/shape/influence the content of your work?

It’s just making a digital negative, my photoshop skills render me unable to go much further than that unfortunately.

What role do you see for hand-made/alternative process work in the art world of today? Where do you see yourself in that world?

I believe in the photography art world, the alternative processes will continue to be valued and appreciated for both it’s aesthetic appeal as well as for the craft involved. That being said, a good photograph is a good photograph regardless of how it was made. As for myself in that world, that is for others to judge. I will keep doing what I enjoy doing and let the chips fall where they may.

Candlestick Butte, by Erik Larsen
Candlestick Butte, by Erik Larsen