DePaul Art Museum > Exhibitions > This is Not a Photograph: Rayographs and Other Unique Prints

This is Not a Photograph: Rayographs and Other Unique Prints

January 18 – March 10, 2002​​


Photograms, or photographic images made without cameras, span the history of images made with light. The technique forms a crucial early step in the development of the medium in the 1830s and reappears sporadically through the ensuing centuries, usually directed towards purely artistic images. More recently, technological changes in photography have led artists to turn again to a process that is both simple and complex. In this exhibition, fifteen artists exploit the directness of the medium towards a variety of images.

Photogram images often look like silhouettes or shadows, a result of the placement of the paper under the object, whereas photographic images allow us to see objects with the light falling on the visible surface. Photographs more closely resemble what our eyes normally see through their own lenses, while photograms seem to be images from another world, seen from the inside. This slightly unreal quality was frustrating to early experimenters, but came to be attractive in the twentieth century, particularly for Surrealists such as Man Ray (after whose work photograms are sometimes referred to as rayographs), but also to artists who sought a more objective stance, such as Christian Schad (“schadographs”) and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. More recently, artists have returned to the technique again, often combining new technologies with the old.

Some works on view in this exhibition, notably the flower studies of Kunie Sugiura and the hair patterns of Jonathan Kline, recall the early history of photograms, even to their use of toned images or paper. Cheryl van Hooven makes calligraphic light paintings, in effect turning a flashlight on photographic paper, as Moholy-Nagy did. Others choose new techniques or subject matter. Alain Clement manipulates negatives with paint, while Christopher Giglio captures the last flicker of light from a cathode-ray television being turned off, exploiting, like the other artists represented in the exhibition, the ability of photograms to capture a shadowy and elusive moment in time.

Organized by Pamela Auchincloss Projects.​