When I first encountered Markus Amm’s work in the halls of Booth School of Business, I was quite taken with his formal/material operations. Simultaneously mysterious and obvious, I wonder what parameters or set of instructions Amm is both working within and against to arrive at these very physical constructed images. It seems there are internal forces at play that are left open for the viewer to project into and complete. It seems more about this sense of projection than erasures or sites of removal.
After visiting the paintings several times, they did not empty out quickly. Amm also maintains a body of work in the photographic process of photograms by using direct application of positive shapes against the exposure process on photo negative paper. This immediacy, limited palette, and controlled material experimentation in both the paintings and the photographs is infinitely intriguing.
A recent resurgence of the photogram process brings new light, new structures, and a new set of tensions to bear on the medium. Another artist working in the process who is also harnessing color and creating fields is, Walead Beashty.
“Working in both color and black-and-white, Beshty revises this historical technique by enlarging the scale of his photograms and making use of more contemporary technologies, such as color processors. In addition, rather than placing objects on photographic paper, Beshty folds or curls the paper before exposing it repeatedly to light, creating interlocking facets of prismatic color. The resulting works present themselves as seductive, elusive abstractions, yet they are actually material representations of the very process of their creation.” –Hirshhorn Museum website
Beashty and Amm’s photo interventions immediately bring to mind the master and Bauhaus-to-Chicago pioneer of Constructivism, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy. In the early 20th century Man Ray and Maholy-Nagy first experimented with cameraless photograms. Now Amm and Beashty pay homage to these artists in their updated photogram interventions. Essentially these artists are sampling and repeating a time tested process by bringing it into the 21st century and proving it can hold new content and hold up in new contexts.
Markus Amm in University of Chicago Booth School of Business Collection.