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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Mandalac Gardens by Robert Glenn Ketchum

From August 11 - September 27, I will be exhibiting new work, MANDALAC GARDENS, at The G2 Gallery in Venice, California. This Constant Contact is background information about my color print-making history in general. and how it has lead me to this new series of "prints." I have also included all 9 of the images that will be in the exhibit, so please give this a read and enjoy the "show."
For those of you that have followed my work, you know I began my career as a color printmaking photographer in the early 1970's when Cibachrome papers were introduced into the American market. Although Kodak made color paper for color-negative photographers and I learned to print with it while attending Brooks Institute, I GREATLY disliked the flat, lifeless color the material provided and was never attracted to using it. Having mentored a bit with Eliot Porter, I much preferred the more saturated tonal quality of transparency film, and Eliot's remarkable dye transfer prints that I thought "truer" to life. I, too, learned to print dye transfer, but I found it an inconsistent process that did not lend itself to large print scale, in which I was particularly interested.

Cibachrome was a saturated, color-positive paper, meaning you could work directly from transparency film, AND it had archival stability, something else I desired that the Kodak materials did not offer. At the time, the only person in Los Angeles known to be using Cibachrome was master printer, Ted Staidle, who was doing a lot of commercial work with it for the studios and ad agencies. I began collaborating with Ted in 1973, and produced my first color print of any significance, "Trail Creek Beaver Ponds," in his studio.

"Trail Creek Beaver Ponds", 1973
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum
After some time, I began to feel that Ted was "overworking" the process AND my objectives, so I began to look for another alternative. I was fortunate to be introduced to Michael Wilder, a young printer living in Venice, CA, who had started using Cibachrome for his father and a few others. Michael was my age, trying to establish a client base, and was willing to let me have significant input in the darkroom. Over the ensuing years, Michael would go on to "blow-up" his client base to include some of the most important color photographers in the world today. He also remained the exclusive printer of my work until 2004-2005, when Cibachrome was taken off of the market. If you have been opening my Constant Contact mailings, you know that I have been using this system to publish complete versions of my early portfolios - one of the most significant of which was the 30"x 40", 18-print series, ORDER FROM CHAOS. Michael Wilder was my printer of that portfolio and even today it still stands as one of my most beautiful bodies of work. If you have NOT received, or read, that Constant Contact mailing when I sent it, and you would like to, let me know and I will resend it.

ORDER FROM CHAOS:  "Trying to Stop the World", 1984
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum

I would also like to note/gloat that, "Trail Creek Beaver Ponds" has been on continuous display in my various homes all these many years, and images from ORDER FROM CHAOS are in public and private collections all over North America. If they have been well treated, they appear mint with NO evidence of fading color. My peers that chose to work with the Kodak materials have had to replace most of their original prints for their clients/galleries because they faded significantly within 10-15 years.
Cibachrome was never "easy" to work with, AND it was quite toxic, requiring careful recycling. As with many things, it was eventually superseded by newer/better material. The "replacement" paper of choice, Crystal Archive, was invented by Fuji, and it was far more water and chemical-friendly. I had become an exclusive user of Fujifilm beginning in 1985, when Fujichrome was first introduced in the U.S., and I actually became a beta-tester for Fujichrome when they were developing their 100 (ASA). As Cibachrome was leaving the market, and Crystal Archive was coming in, I was trying to determine on what new material I would print the exhibit I was assembling to support the NO PEBBLE MINE campaign in which I had become involved. Fuji stepped up and offered to sponsor the entire exhibit if I would use their new Crystal Archive print paper. Never having used Fuji Crystal Archive, and now being years away from darkroom practice, I needed to find a new master printer who would be familiar with Crystal Archive. I connected with West Coast Imaging, whose founder, Rich Seiling, I had come to know over the years, and it was there I met Michael Jones. Michael has been my master printer ever since.

NO PEBBLE MINE:  "Ongoing"
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum

Michael Jones works with many well-known photographers and is a remarkable printer, but as I began to spend more time with him, I realized that he was also a VERY adept user of Adobe and the myriad Adobe tools available in the digital darkroom - skills he seldom put into application when printing "straight" imagery. In 2006 I was given a spectacular 45-year retrospective exhibit by the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, TX, and following that exhibit, I decided to take my work in a new direction.

I studied with Robert Heinecken and Edmund Teske at UCLA, both VERY untraditional teachers and users of photography. Although my "straight" landscape imagery reflected by my career to that point, was very "traditional" for reasons of life-purpose and media messaging, I never lost my inclination to experiment and explore. The Amon Carter retrospective exhibit (and my age) freed me from that life-purpose paradigm and allowed me to pursue those inclinations.

On exhibit, or perhaps on my website, you may have seen the first of this work, a series referred to as EVOLUTION. Begun as a single panel 6ft tall x 28" wide, it became a repeat that is now 32-panels and growing - in groupings of 6-panels, the titles are "Choose Joy," "Navigating The Dark Wood Of Error," Confused By Butterflies," "It's Getting Better All The Time," and most recently, "Bright Sun-Shiny Day. Although the evolving image is a repeat of the same leaves, no panel is the same. Each was altered from the other, substantially. This was also Michael Jones and me working together in an entirely new way, and using his skills to help me reconceive entirely what most of us think a photographic image is.

EVOLUTION:  "It's Getting Better All the Time", 2013
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum

During this process of investigation and "playing" in the digital darkroom, other technologies changed as well. Photographers could print on an increasing variety of surfaces, including cloth and metal. In 2014, Michael and I were altering some images to create cloth-print patterns, and Michael sent me a file comprised of "shards" - fragments of one of my photographs, broken up in irregular shapes. On my monitor, I was struck not only by the patterns in the image, BUT ALSO by the outer shape of the image. I mentioned it to Michael and said I thought the whole photograph would look great on the wall, just like that, with the external edges cut to those shapes. Michael responded that we could do that by printing on aluminum and then cutting it out with a laser-router - new technologies I had yet to try.

So we were off! This unexpected direction was also exciting to pursue as we now saw ourselves as working together, and so WE have created a new series of images, MANDALAC GARDENS, that will be on display at The G2 Gallery in Venice (CA) from August 11- September 27, 2015.

MANDALAC GARDENS presents 9 of these "sculptural" photographs. The image is embedded in aluminum sheet with dyes, heat and pressure. The external shape is then cut out with a laser-router, and the final "photograph" hangs as is, without any framing. It can be placed outdoors, is impervious to water, and can be cleaned with a soft cloth. There are only TWO prints of each at 40", and TWO prints of each at 30". 

If you live in the Los Angeles area, please come to the G2 Opening Reception from 6-9pm on Saturday, August 15. You MUST see these in person to really appreciate the immense detail and odd symmetries. There is NOTHING else like this being done in photography. For those of you not able to visit Los Angeles for this show, herewith Michael Jones and I give you, MANDALAC GARDENS.

Please enjoy and meditate upon them.

MANDALAC GARDENS:  "Adirondack Northstar", 2015
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum

MANDALAC GARDENS:  "Agavita Lepidotra", 2015

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum

MANDALAC GARDENS:  "Arctic Dreams (Thank You Barry Lopez)", 2015

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum

MANDALAC GARDENS:  "Pondering Caprivi", 2015
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum

MANDALAC GARDENS:  "Redwood Dawn", 2015
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum

MANDALAC GARDENS:  "Rivers of Life", 2015
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum

MANDALAC GARDENS:  "So Succulent A Heart", 2015
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum

MANDALAC GARDENS:  "Very Cherry Sunrise", 2015
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum

MANDALAC GARDENS:  "Wasatch Sun Dance", 2015
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum
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