Golden Gallery is proud to present Aspen Mays as the first exhibition of our fourth year, marking the beginning of our program in New York City, located at 120 Elizabeth Street (Bowery / Chinatown). Mays, currently based in Los Angeles, will present photographic artwork created during her time as a 2010 Fulbright Scholar.
Mays arrived in Santiago, Chile for a residency at the University of Chile’s Astronomical Observatory where she used an abandoned darkroom as her on-site studio. In her unrestricted access to the unused darkroom, Mays utilized dated photographic paper and chemicals – as well as countless rejected prints, negatives, and ephemera from the lab’s archive. The artist’s arrival was just days before the sixth largest ever-recorded earthquake razed the entire region.
Sun Ruins brings together two major projects as they stand in a contradictory – yet mutually fulfilling – relationship to one another: one positivist, the other offering an interventionist and autonomous account on the limits of photographic depiction of celestial bodies. The exhibition calls in to question the expectation of photography as documentary and categorical, and explores the visualization of forms of knowledge in both studio art and observational practices.
The Sun 1957 is the collective title of 25 silver gelatin prints that depict the Sun from a mid-century international survey of sunspots. Though the negatives used by Mays were possibly discounted from the official study on individual criteria, their quantity en masse begins to create an encompassing picture of the Sun for that year. Being that the film negatives were unearthed from the darkroom’s archive organized by month, Mays has arranged them similarly with some months filling multiple sheets, while other months are recorded by fewer images. There is no record of November. By recontextualizing the negatives, the artist constructs a dynamic grid of both spatial and temporal consequence.
In the complimentary project, Mays used a hole punch to physically remove each prominently-visible star from found darkroom prints of an unknown date, rendering them non-informational. As each of the Punched out stars described the position of the Earth in relationship to outer space, they now serve as a record of the removal of that information. Formerly representational, and presently the location of action by the artist, their distinction between document and construct is ambiguous. Also on view in the exhibition is a collaged artwork that Mays made upon returning to Los Angeles, using a burning tool found in her Chilean studio.
Aspen Mays has recently exhibited at The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Higher Pictures, New York; Silverman Gallery, San Francisco; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Her 2009 solo exhibition at Golden Gallery, Chicago was reviewed in Art Forum and Art Papers. She received her Master of Fine Arts from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.