SILVERMAN AND HAMILTON SQUARE CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION present “Tenesh Webber: Black and White Photographs,” curated by Brendan Carroll. The exhibition presents 12 photographs and photograms that were made between 2004 and 2008.
Webber’s pictorial language features rough-hewn shapes placed in flat space, which are organized into nonrepresentational compositions. Her motifs combine bold and delicate forms. For example, she features an accumulation of horizontal bands that zip from the right to the left edge of the picture plane, or a furtive ring shape hovering over a deep black expanse. Although the scale of the work is modest, and the imagery deceptively simple, the compositions pack a wallop, engaging the eye like the brilliant chemical sunsets over the Hackensack meadowlands or a harvest moon with its declarative impact of an exclamation point. The stylistic DNA of her work can be found in Geometric abstraction, Abstract Expressionism, and contemporary sculpture.
To make her images, Webber uses both traditional and nontraditional photographic processes, which rely on drawing, sculpture, and installation.
The photogram is a key medium in Webber’s work. Established as an art form in the early 20th century by avant-garde artists such as Christian Schad, Man Ray, and László Moholy-Nagy, the photogram is an image made on photographic paper without the aid of a camera. To create a photogram, Webber places handmade objects, cut paper, thread, and aerosol-painted synthetic glass on a sheet of paper and exposes it to light. Each print is unique, with slight variations and idiosyncrasies that bring to mind the type of marks more associated with pen, pencil, charcoal, and paper.
Webber does not rely on the photogram alone to create her abstractions. She also uses a medium-format view camera to shoot three-dimensional sculptures—often constructed from thread, plastic, and found objects. Preliminary sketches are the key to this work. Often she draws an idea in a notebook, which in time becomes the basis of a new photograph. The time between the drawing and the photograph on which it is based on can be as short as a few days or as long as several years. Gestation takes time.
Webber, in her photography, essentially draws with light, which is fitting. The word “photography” has its genesis in two Greek words: photo—meaning light; and graphy—meaning draw.