On view in the Chan Gallery through April 28, 2018
Richard Slechta believes it is essential to challenge the boundaries of contemporary photography, to think differently, to pioneer and to innovate. He delivers an expansive and dynamic experience beyond the picture frame. Slechta’s absorption with the phenomenon of light has been a defining influence on every aspect of his work. Wielding light and pigment, his richly luminescent images investigate the boundaries of photographic abstraction through a hybrid of painting and photography.
Slechta is a Los Angeles-based artist. He was born in 1972 and raised in farming towns in both Oregon and California. Receiving a scholarship to the School of Visual Arts, he moved to New York City. He graduated in 1995, with honors, receiving a BFA in Fine Art Photography. He would live in New York City for 13 years as a studio photographer, videographer and multimedia artist. During this time, he balanced the duality of using analog photography while simultaneously embracing the first wave of digital imaging technologies.
Slechta began working with large-scale camera-less photograms in 1992. An important part of his artistic investigation was the space between discovery and calculation. His influences draw a line from 18th century Japanese painters, such as Ito Jakuchu, who embodied daring and spatially lean compositions. Slechta’s early works are softly contoured, multi-dimensional silhouettes of figures in various states of anthropomorphic changes. His following work of skeletal efflorescent botanics are revealed with sketch-like gestures of light.
In 2002, he transitioned away from using naturalistic forms into incorporating translucent paintings that become re-interpreted with light, creating a new visual language to the dialog of photographic abstraction.
In 2003, Slechta continued his study of lighting in a different media, focusing on visual effects for film. Up until a few years ago, Slechta was at the top of his game as one of Hollywood’s most accomplished Lighting Technical Directors in the field of photo-realistic, computer generated imagery. He worked on big budget feature films, including Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia.
In 2011, armed with his successes in the commercial arena, Slechta committed to his studio practice full time. His professional experiences feed the ongoing innovation in his art practice. He continues to experiment with the application and interaction of color and light, using varying materials and environments.
Today, the photograms he creates fall between the fields of painting and photography. These visceral images present the relationships between control, volatility and play. Turbulent patterns and darting movements express the release of kinetic and potential energy. The images have a foundation of geometric shapes that tell of a physical shift and displacement.
Form appearing in space is a fundamental condition of art. This arising of phenomena encompasses millennia of expression, and yet still maintains its mystery.
In his photograms, Richard Slechta engages the basic dyad of presence and absence, giving it a striking immediacy. His art is minimal in its economy of means, a spare distribution of spiking lines, flaring discs, and other forms that seem shifting and transitory. Simultaneously, Slechta’s art is rich with visual sensation and emotive power. Everything we see is in the context of the photograms’ pristine white space.
Looking at the animated forms as they emerge from the white field we are confronted by the twin conundrums of how they came into being and how they make us feel. The photograms begin with creating paintings on clear plastic sheets. The paintings are then reinterpreted using gestures of chromatic light onto light sensitive photographic paper. The recorded exposures coalesce into the final shapes, colors and textures.
Slechta’s work is abstract, a congruence of process and poetry that does not depict, but rather stimulates a wide range of associations. Forms often suggest dark shadows or burned traces, evidence of an unspoken conflagration. The auras that surround them seem to imply that the darkness is a deep concentration of color, made visible only at its margins. The spiked arrays moving across space are like readouts of seismic events or vital signs. The discs move more freely, points of energy in contrast to the long lines of oscillations.
Slechta’s photograms have a sense of expansiveness and disorientation, as if we are moving through a dimension beyond our own. The forms are wave-like phantoms, vibrantly there, dilating and contracting, but ready to vanish. These works do not call for narrative responses, rather they allow us to immerse ourselves in a domain without language. Paradoxically, the titles of the works point us beyond words to states of being. The titles speak of knowing, induction, causation, breakage, and release. These are not descriptions of the photograms, but instead a way of awakening our responses to the moral implication of this art.
In the white space of these works, we enter a kind of active emptiness, capable of generating vivid colors and profound darkness. This space is the matrix out of which the visual takes form and back into which it sinks. The implications of this are existential – we see in the drama of forms an inevitable reflection of our own lives.