Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco is pleased to announce Cliché-Verre in the Digital Age, an exhibition which examines the use of the historic photography-painting hybrid technique of cliché-verre in contemporary art. Artists featured include Jo Bradford, Peter Feldstein, Maggie Foskett, Suzanne Izzo, Courtney Johnson, Fredrik Marsh, Abelardo Morell, Fred Parker, Frank Rossi, David Symons, and Käthe Wenzel. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, April 7th from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.
Cliché-verre means glass negative in French, and though rare, the technique serves simultaneously as a link between the history and future of photography. Shortly after the invention of photography in the 1839, painters who were interested in the new medium of photography, such as Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875) and Eugene Delacroix (French, 1798-1863) would draw on smoked glass or glass coated in printmaking ground and use the glass plates as photographic negatives. At the same time that Corot and Delacroix were making cliché-verre, the Hausmanization of Paris was underway. The artists’ experiments with the new technology seem to have been a reaction to the overwhelming seventeen-year construction project in Paris—examining new technology as a way to contend with the urbanization of their city.
The traveling museum exhibition and accompanying catalog, Cliché-Verre: Hand-Drawn, Light-Printed, A Survey of the Medium from 1839 to the Present by Elizabeth Glassman and Marilyn F. Symmes was a 1979 – 1980 major retrospective on the technique citing all known artists who had worked in the medium to date including Corot, Delacroix, Pablo Picasso, Vera Berdich, Caroline Durieux, Frederick Sommer, Brassai, Man Ray, among others. Other notable recent exhibitions on the medium have included Sketches on Glass: Clichés-Verre from The New York Public Library in 2008 and Drawn by Light: Camille Corot and his ‘Cliché-Verre’ Experiments at Wallraf-Richartz-Museum and Fondation Corboud in Cologne, Germany in 2010.
Cliché-Verre in the Digital Age aims to be an addendum to these ground-breaking historic exhibitions by being the first exhibition since 1980 to examine the contemporary work, advancements, and ideas within the cliché-verre medium over the last 30 years. Due to its rarity, most artists working in the medium of cliché-verre re-invent the process on their own, thereby creating a wide range of techniques. Cliché-Verre in the Digital Age brings together eleven diverse and accomplished artists from around the world including American, British, German, Cuban-American, and Brazilian-American artists, two Guggenheim Fellows, three National Endowment for the Arts grant recipients, a two-time British Council grant recipient, and a Cintas Foundation Fellow united by their use of this rare medium and working in a variety of cliché-verre techniques from graphite on vellum negatives to ink on glass to collaged three-dimensional objects on glass presenting subject matter centered around cityscapes, globalization, and space exploration.
In the introduction to his 1996 book, In the Name of Identity, Amin Maalouf states, “How many times, since I left Lebanon in 1976 to live in France, have people asked me, with the best intentions in the world, whether I felt ‘more French’ or ‘more Lebanese’? And I always give the same answer: ‘Both!’” The identity of cliché-verre too, like Maalouf, is defined by its duality of being at once a painting and a photograph. Characterized by experimentation and innovation, cliché-verre has historically been employed during times of change, and now more than ever cliché-verre serves as a bridge between traditional and cutting-edge technologies. Cliché-Verre in the Digital Age investigates contemporary cliché-verre much as previous exhibitions have examined cliché-verre of the Industrial Revolution, and much like their forebearers, the work of the eleven artists in Cliché-Verre in the Digital Age reflects the changing environment and connects us with the past and the future.