The sun stars in artworks by Sarah Charlesworth and Chris McCaw drawn from the BAM/PFA collection. Playing the role of a silent collaborator, the sun’s power to illuminate, yet also to scar, makes itself known in the works on view, one a signature work by a major Conceptual artist (recently restored in collaboration with the artist), the other a new acquisition by an extraordinary emerging artist.
For Arc of Total Eclipse, February 26, 1979, Sarah Charlesworth photographed the front pages of a series of local newspapers to document the course of a solar eclipse on a single day as it passed from the Pacific Northwest, across Canada, and toward Greenland. With the exception of the newspaper mastheads, she removed all accompanying text to isolate images of the eclipse from each of the periodicals. The resulting prints convey a haunting sense of the power of this celestial event to “eclipse” the everyday chatter of the mass media. Arc of Total Eclipse is part of Charlesworth’s larger Modern History series, in which the artist explores the dynamics of photographic representation of current events in world newspapers.
Employing a radically different process, Chris McCaw’s evocative Sunburned GSP #488 (Sunset/sunrise, Galbraith Lake, Alaska) (2011) also tracks the path of the sun across the sky. Using handmade view-cameras of his own invention, McCaw creates unique gelatin silver paper negatives that incorporate burn marks made by the rays of the sun along with ethereal photographic images. The artist explains, “The subject of the photograph (the sun) has transcended the idea that a photograph is a simple representation of reality, and has physically come through the lens and put its hand onto the final piece.”