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Stroke of a genius

CONFRONTING TRADITIONS Exhibition of photomontages by Jerry N Uelsmann . February 21-March 7, 1996, at the United States Information Centre . New Delhi

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

-- THE exhibition of Jerry Uelsmarin's photomontages featured the photographs taken by him over the past 35 years, documenting his contribution to 20th-century art. Uelsmann's works trigger a response, but never quite reveal their meaning. He is a master of illusion. An understanding of his difficult-to- comprehend style will perhaps be easier with an explanation from the genius him- self: "Out- cameras introduce us to an endless array of trees, clouds, rocks, objects, people, feelings, experiences and so on. We wander through this varied landscape as contemporary archaeologists, anthropologists, poets and explorers, following our own internally directed way".

Uelsmann's work portrays his ability to play around rather dramatically with images by supcrimposing them from various contexts. His presentation has a wide range in terms of imagery as well as content, but his technique continues to revolve around darkroorn manipulation. Uelsrnann is also seen as an artist sensitive to the aspect of texture and his selection ranges from the crunchy and dry to the silky, among others. What impresses one most about Uelsmann's photographs is that be does not search for the coincidental positioning of the various images.

Uelsmann began working in the late '50s - after receiving his bachelor of fine arts degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York - at a time when fine art was dominated by the clocunientary tradition of Walker Evans and the purist aesthetic of Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. Fic bears the influence of the (lernian Dadaists (an international movement in art between 1915-20, which repudiated tradition and reason and intended to shock), who had earlier used photomontages to condemn Adolf Hitler. In fact John Heartifield, an artist, had put himself to considerable risk because he went to the extent of showing Hitler taking money from capitalists. Today, the images generated in the darkroom comprise an accepted form of art and Uelsmann, a guru of the same.

The artist has to his credit the Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, awarded in 1967 and 1972 respectively. He has had over 100 solo exhibitions around the world. For Uelsmann, "Each click of the shutter is an emotional investment with which a part of the world becomes a visual possession."

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