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Jerry Uelsmann (1934-)Jerry Uelsmann

Alternative, Fine Art

Biography: Although Jerry Uelsmann's photographs bank on what Roland Barthes called the 'evidential force' of the standard photographic image, Uelsmann's work plays the standards differently. As we project ourselves into the familiar configurations of the two-dimensional scene, we find ourselves caught in other topographies: landmark regions unerringly fused in seamless disjunction. His forty-year image bank is, of course, one of the more singular and visible of recent times, as even a cursory glance at his exhibition record will attest. And thus the disconcerting aspects of his work, their oft-repeated iconographic amalgams, have become, in a certain sense, expected. But in a rich paradox that lies across the frame of his images, Uelsman's photographs have recently been imported into a commercial website. Here, as a pedagogical device for illustrating computer image manipulations, they are set to work to further electronic production by calling on the cachet of the darkroom al-chemical product. The game, it seems, is thankfully far from over.

The visually plausible but philosophically impossible situations presented in Jerry Uelsmann's photographs contradict the essential information we have come to expect from photographs. By subverting the currency of literal fact, Uelsmann releases us from the constraints of photography's mimetic function. No longer burdened by representation, we naturally return to our internal, nonlinear faculties of thought and feeling to savor the inexpressible resonance of his enigmatic visions. Vague, despite their sharpness and fine detail, and ambiguous despite our recognition of their constituent elements, his photographic montages are like dreams that slip past our perceptual defenses triggering a response but never quite revealing their meaning.

Born in Detroit in 1934, Jerry N. Uelsmann received his B.F.A. from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1957, where he studied under Minor White and Hat (Hattersley), and his M.S. and M.F.A. from Indiana University in 1960. He has taught at the University of Florida since 1960, and held the position of Graduate Research Professor at UF since 1974. Uelsmann received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1967 and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1972. He is a founding member of the American Society for Photographic Education, a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, and has served as a trustee of the Friends of Photography.

Uelsmann's work has been exhibited in more than 100 solo shows in the United States and abroad over the past thirty years. His photographs are in the permanent collections of numerous museums worldwide including the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Chicago Art Institute, The International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Biblioteque National in Paris, the National Museum of American Art in Washington, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the National Galleries of Scotland, the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, Arizona, the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, Japan, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the National Gallery of Canada, and the National Gallery of Australia.

Uelsmann's photographs have been reproduced and discussed in numerous national and international journals, books, magazines and newspapers. His photographs have also been reproduced in a portfolio by Doubleday (1970) and by the Witkin Gallery in a limited edition portfolio of original prints. Books include Jerry N. Uelsmann (Millerton, N.Y.: Aperture, 1970); John L. Ward, The Criticism of Photography as Art: The Photographs of Jerry Uelsmann (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1970); Jerry N. Uelsmann: Silver Meditations (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Morgan and Morgan, 1975); Jerry N. Uelsmann: Photography from 1975-1979 (Chicago: Columbia College, 1980); Jerry N. Uelsmann-Twenty-Five Years: A Retrospective (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1982); Uelsmann: Process and Perception (Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1985); Jerry Uelsmann: Photosynthesis (Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1992); and Uelsmann's Yosemite (Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1996). (Department of Art and Art History, University of Florida)

More on Jerry Uelsmann:

Ezell Gallery - Jerry Uelsmann
Several Examples of Jerry Uelsmann's work.
Official Website of Jerry Uelsmann. Featuring Dozens of Images, an Extensive Biography, and much more.

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