In the Vault: Sharon Harper

April 4 - April 28, 2012

PHILADELPHIA-- Concurrent with a solo exhibition of photographs by Germán Gómez in the main gallery space, Bridgette Mayer Gallery is pleased to present photography by Sharon Harper in the Gallery’s Vault Room. Timed to coincide with the Philadelphia Science Festival, Harper will exhibit work from her "Moon Studies and Star Scratches" and "Sun/Moon (Trying to See through a Telescope)" series, on view April 4 – 28, 2012.

Her experimental photographs of the moon, stars, and sun ask basic questions about our place in the world, and about the nature of photography. The images included in this exhibition draw on scientific and artistic uses of photography to illuminate the medium’s contradictory ability to verify empirical evidence and to create poetic connections between our environment and us.

In photographs from the series Moon Studies and Star Scratches, 2003- 2008, the moons and star trails are recorded over a period of days, weeks and months on a single sheet of film. The resulting compositions are a collaboration between the photographer’s movements of the camera and the movements of the natural world. Within this relationship, the camera is given agency to transcribe with its attendant technical restrictions. Light pollution shifts colors as they register on transparency film, reversing our expectation of the night sky by turning it orange and red, or bright blue. These surprising shifts bring attention to the impact photographic optics and materials have upon the images they render. “One of the ideas that I'm trying to get across in the work,” says Harper, “is that the photographs can reverse our expectations, particularly concerning day and night.… I'm often trying to figure out why we use photography ‘correctly’ and how photography can be used against our training and expectations.”

Sun/Moon (Trying to See Through a Telescope), 2010- separates into two parts the process of looking and the cognitive process of understanding to question the seamlessness of photography. We cannot look at the sun directly or know the details of the moon’s surface without a mediating instrument. The images, comprised of time sequences that refer to the historic photographic motion studies made for scientific purposes, emphasize the movement of the individual using technology to trying to understand an object. The exact nature of the object—in this case the sun or moon—remains in question. This upends the nature of scientific inquiry assumed by traditional motion studies and shifts the focus of the work to the unseen, experiential encounter between and individual and physical phenomena. What is depicted is the process of mediating, looking and trying to understand.

Sharon Harper’s works is in permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, and the Portland Art Museum, Portland Oregon, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, and The New York Public Library among other collections. She has received numerous artist-in-residence fellowships including at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, California, the MacDowell Colony, and at the Ucross Foundation. She was a Meredith S. Moody Residency Fellow and an Elizabeth Ames Fellow at Yaddo, and a Sam and Dusty Boynton Fellow at the Vermont Studio Center. The first monograph of her work, From Above and Below, will be published by Radius Books in the fall 2012. She is an Associate Professor, Visual and Environmental Studies Program at Harvard University.

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