This show is about how photographs are a reflection of their maker. Comprised of self-portraits, studies, environmental portraits, and busts, Made by Will, on view in Houston Center for Photography´s main gallery this spring, contains seminal works made by the photographer Will Michels in the last 15 years. Antecedents are also included, along with supporting documents such as the photographer´s journals and sketches.
Native Houstonian Will Michels (b. 1968) has been making pictures for over twenty-five years. During his teenage years and early twenties while at Glassell, HSPVA and Pratt Institute Michels´ compositions were mainly architectural and his subjects had strong references to destruction. In his final year of architecture school, Michels began to merge architecture, photography and himself, often in homage to Josef Albers and the square. In his early 20s, he began to make series of portraits. Since 1995, the photographer has worked at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston where he helps to digitize the permanent collection, curates and teaches aspiring photographers — all experiences which have enriched his own photography over the years.
Curated by Madeline Yale, Adjunct Curator for HCP, Made by Will is the first comprehensive exhibition of Michels´ more intimate work. Notably, his other projects not exhibited include Living History: Iwo Jima + 60 and CREW: The Men of the U.S.S. TEXAS, a project that earned him the 1999 HCP Fellowship Award. While works in Made by Will pivot around the chronological axis of the photographer´s fellowship exhibition at HCP, they move beyond the documentary to suggest a more emotional and experimental photographic practice.
Four of the photographer´s series are on view in Made by Will. The Self-Portraits, begun in 1991, include the Friday series which were made during Michels´ downtime working as a restorer and historian for the Battleship TEXAS. Michels began photographing in his bedroom, later in his bathroom and eventually his bed - spaces of increased intimacy and vulnerability. The series In Their Room began in 1996 out of Michels´ need for greater ease in photographing strangers in preparation for CREW: The Men of the U.S.S. TEXAS, a project to document veterans who served on the Battleship TEXAS. The photographer quickly realized that these images, like his self-portraits, were also about the line of privacy. The Studies evolved later in 1996; this body contemporarily incorporates compositional cues and re-interprets imbedded meanings from known Italian Renaissance, early Dutch and Neoclassical images. Examples include Caravaggio´s (1571-1610) The Flagellation of Christ and Hans Membling´s (1430-1494) Crucifixion. Begun in 2005, Busts is the photographer´s most prolific series to date and is a work in progress. The compositions directly reference Roman sculptures; subjects are selected based upon their bone structure, skin texture, and likeness to Roman busts but are also often the quiet person in the back of the room. Incorporating either Sfumato softness or a contrastier Chiaroscuro style of illumination, Michels photographs his sitters shirtless with lighting derived from Italian Renaissance painting.
The images in Made by Will are evocative; they demonstrate a heightened degree of emotional intimacy and firm understanding of art history. Rich in tonality and expertly printed, Michels´ gelatin silver, cyanotype, and salted paper photographs are works by a Master printer who is destined to create beautiful and intriguing images for years to come.
Made By Will: Selections from Four Portfolios is generously funded by Anonymous donors; Amy Blakemore; Ginny and Bill Camfield; Sara Metsa and Mark Camfield; John Dazey; Bob Gulley; Jason and Allyson Kinzel; Dillon Kyle and Sam Lasseter; Kevin Longino Fine Photographs; Libbie Masterson; Joan Morgenstern; Nicole and Jim Perdue, Jr.; Paul Smead; Laurel and Louis Smith; Joan and Stuart Weil; Barbara and Lee Winderman.
Friday May 7, 2010
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Exhibition tour and artist talk with Will Michels
Thursday May 27, 2010
7:00 PM - 8:00 PM