The Electromagnetogram Series began as a collaboration between artists Liz Liguori and Jessie Mann in response to how digital photography has taken over the representationalist work that photography once took over from painting. As Clement Greenburg pointed out “Photography is the only art that can still afford to be naturalistic and that, in fact, achieves its maximum effect through naturalism….Therefore it would seem that photography today could take over the field that used to belong to genre and historical painting” Just as painting, once freed from its responsibility to accurately reflect the world, expanded into impressionism and abstraction, so to have traditional photographic processes expanded their repertoire of image making styles once no longer responsible for naturalism or historical account. As with painting, we are seeing photography redeploy traditional techniques to create new and unique images that are no longer tied to reflecting the world. Instead of reflecting the world photography is now free to explore the lines, texture, and color of the medium isolated from content, much as the abstract painters did with painting. Artists like Hiroshi Sugimoto, Gerhard Richter, Dirk Braeckman, Marco Breuer, Chris Mccaw, Sally Mann, Alan Jarai are reinventing photography as a method of abstraction. Sugimoto, like Rothko, is exploring the color field and raw horizon line. Chris Mccaw, Mann, Braeckman and Breuer are all exploring the texture of the negative and print surface.
Clement Greenburg outlines the hallmarks of abstract expressionism as “large and conspicuous rhythms, broken color, uneven saturations, exhibited finger marks, masses that blot and fuse”, the work here presented is an attempt to recreate these elements but with photographic processes rather than paint. It is a rediscovery of the elements of photography as they can be employed toward an abstract expressionist end. This work was inspired by Ralph Eugene Meatyard’s abstractions (1957-1972). It was with these images that photography was reborn as an abstract medium. These electromagnetograms use some of the same methods Meatyard introduced and expand on his process. These works are an effort to explore the essence of the medium, independent of content, in the same way that abstract expressionism was an effort at exploring the essence of painting free of content. The electromagnetogram is an effort at isolating light, surface, saturation, and rhythm in through the photographic process.