I will celebrate a birthday on December 1st and one of my presents is that a number of institutions are looking back over the last 40-years and recognizing artists and bodies of their work that broadened the conceptual dialogue around photography, and COLOR photography in particular.
My first widely recognized body of color work, published as the portfolios, ORDER FROM CHAOS in the early 80's, reflected my simultaneous acknowledgement AND rejection of the imagery of the immediate historical past, specifically Eliot Porter. Porter's color work was inspirational and his sense of abstraction in a relatively descriptive rendering of subject blew me away, BUT I believed his style of presenting those images with quite detailed scientific labeling, hindered public perception of his true vision.
My ORDER TO CHAOS series represented landscape as abstraction with NO regard to specifics nor location, and mocked painterly titling with labels making reference to literature, music, and art I was consuming. Simultaneously, it embraced what Porter had taught me about color and took it to new scale and visual dimensional space by pioneering Cibachrome
printing with Master Printer, Michael Wilder.
Prior to that work maturing, I was "looking" at the western landscape surrounding wherever I was living and taking the pictures that would be the precursors to ORDER FROM CHAOS. When I published "
in the late 70's, I put my three images from that huge exhibition in a signed, limited edition portfolio of 24x30 prints. These included 2-prints from western parks, and one print, "Transition", one of the first photographs I took after moving to Washington, DC. to write/curate the exhibition. "Transition" proved to be a prescient image as it signaled my direct engagement with the "forests of Eliot Porter" and the visual maturing of my conceptual series, ORDER FROM CHAOS, particularly with regard to color. "Transition" has never been published in any other print form but parts of it did constitute the seminal design for my new textile company's first product, a silk scarf entitled, "Launch". (Orange County Museum: 12/15 to 3/2/2014)
A bit farther away, the Amon Carter Museum (Fort Worth, TX) opened a massive curatorial effort spanning the history of color photography in a show entitled, "COLOR! American Photography Transformed." Published with a lavish and complete catalog, curator John Rohrbach chose to include an image of mine from the ORDER FROM CHAOS portfolios: "Brewster Boogie Woogie, 27 (1979)". In the catalog essay Rohrbach states,
"Los Angeles photographer Robert Glenn Ketchum was... challenging notions of acceptable naturalism through landscapes of deeply saturated color. He created images like "Brewster Boogie Woogie, 27" ...a patchwork of brilliant orange, red, and yellow leaves deliver(ing) colors that lie right at the edge of believability. Such color exaggeration is the artist's point and the foundation of his Mondrian-rooted title. Printed at 30 x 40 inches, the photographs open(ed) a new door to challenging painting..."
The beauty of these exhibits and publication is that they lay the framework for TWO ADDITIONAL AND IMPORTANT EXHIBITS IN LOS ANGELES IN JANUARY !!!
The complete WINTERS: 1970-1980 portfolio - box, pages and prints - will be displayed as well, and this exhibit will include 2-embroideries that I have derived from these winter images in the 25-years I have spent working with my collaborative guild in China. My embroideries are infrequently displayed, so this is a GREAT opportunity to see two of the most beautiful black & white ones.
These portfolios of mine have been relatively ignored by the larger "post-modernist" art community but were / are important to the evolution of photography. Intending them to be exhibited together was to underscore that they acknowledge a shift in vision and concept based on changes in technology.
SO IT IS A HAPPY BIRTHDAY FOR ME to see these vintage portfolios acknowledged and displayed once again for everyone to reconsider.
"Brewster Boogie Woogie, 27" will be included in the G2 show, as will its color-complimentary companion, "Brewster Boogie Woogie, 11" among others - all interwoven with the small, minimalist B/W winter images. In displaying these two very different bodies of work in this way I am making obvious the difference between large-format cameras traditional to the genre of landscape, and the newer, smaller cameras I was choosing to use. Each "sees" in quite a different way and allows the landscape to be understood from very different perspectives. In both portfolios I have also resisted any specific description of place... in favor of description of space - the framing/print-making of the image as something to be viewed and considered.
The ORDER FROM CHAOS portfolios also announced my to-be, career-long exploration of color had begun, signatured by its attention to detail, texture, and a saturated vibrancy of hue. This carries through to my most recent digital work.
Lastly, The G2 Gallery will also host my MOST RECENT DIGITAL WORK, January 15-19, 2014 at the LOS ANGELES ART SHOW 2014, held in the Los Angeles Convention Center (South Hall J & K). This exhibit will include the few remaining large-scale prints of "Choose Joy" and "Turn, Turn, Turn..." as well as the most recently created "It's Getting Better All The Time" - still part of the repeating leaf-motif that began with the 1st-panel of "Choose Joy." Now morphed, colored and recolored through more than 24-panels, 5,000 layers of Adobe, and 8-years of obsession in the digital darkroom, it is Getting Better All The Time.
If these images are interesting on-line, please come see them as large prints so the details of the manipulations can be more fully appreciated. The vintage prints and embroideries are a unique reflection on my contributions in another era of photography's evolution.
I will hope to see you at one of these exhibitions.