From his earlier black and white images made in the basement of his family’s home to his recent work produced during his residency at Skowhegan, performance has been an integral part of his practice. Rarely does Charland appear in his photographs and when he does allow us a glimpse of himself, it is as an apparition- ghostlike hands drafting a cube in light, a transparent silhouette from which a cascade of flames emanates or a disembodied hand spraying fuel on the fire. Still, his images offer us clear evidence of his activities and interventions.
4 Spheres with Compass, Penlight and Drill ©Caleb Charland
Carefully planned and meticulously executed, his Demonstration images consist of precisely controlled, yet decidedly low-tech, sets of actions performed for the camera. 4 Spheres with Compass, Penlight and Drill is composed of 85 separate exposures on a single sheet of film. The individual actions, seemingly insignificant, merge to appear as a rudimentary device, emitting perfectly rendered spheres of radiant energy.
Sparkler Through Crystal Ball ©Caleb Charland
Sparkler Through Crystal Ball, cleverly references Dr. Harold Edgerton’s high-speed bullet
photographs, but it took Charland minutes to capture the spray of sparks on film, an enormous amount of time compared to Edgerton’s millionth-of-a-second images. This playful use of allusion and illusion appears regularly throughout his projects.
A Picture of Gray, Eaten by Bacteria ©Caleb Charland
In his Bacterial Biographs, he dispenses with absolute control in favor of absolute randomness. By introducing bacteria to his exposed and developed sheet film, he hands over control of the image-making process to nature, allowing the bacteria to devour and redeposit the film emulsion to create new and unimaginable abstract pieces which at times can evoke aerial photographs, organic materials or astrophotography.
Silhouette with Matches ©Caleb Charland
In Charland’s latest body of work, he takes his performances out of the studio, adopting environmental settings. Silhouette with Matches represents the accumulation of a simple action, lighting a match and tossing it in the air, repeated hundreds of times over the course of an evening. Only by compressing time into a single image could this temporal event be documented in such a dramatic fashion.
Scheduled to receive his MFA next month from the Art Institute of Chicago, Charland already has prints in the collections of The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Smithsonian Museum of American Art, The Progressive Collection as well as numerous private collections.
Caleb Charland’s work is on view at MMG in Burning Desire. More can be seen at the gallery and at www.michaelmazzeo.com