History As Medium
Part II: Virtual Collage
December 10, 2010 - March 11, 2011
Fran Forman—ReCollections is the second exhibition in the History As Medium series, a three-part, yearlong exploration of the trend among modern and post-modern artists with a predisposition for collage, to make conglomerate imagery with found, manipulated and artist-generated materials. (Visitors are encouraged to take note of the artist's source materials on display in the table vitrine, at the center of the gallery.) As we track the focal point of the series—how each artist specifically uses historic references—we notice how it celebrates unfamiliar, unconventional and evolved collage practices.
Our series began by exploring the uncollages
—a collage process that completely undoes all residue of the paper used to create the image rendered—of Bo Joseph
, whose strategies for burying and excavating imagery suggests relationships, connections and even "hyperlinks" between seemingly disparate things. History as Medium
continues with Forman's
virtual collages, which share a similar interest in chance-encounter combination; but randomness in Forman's
case is particularly subjugated to personal whim or fancy and the forces of the artist's own intuitive reconciliation. Thus, where connection prompted a game of image and idea tag in our first exhibition, the dreamy, surreal and fantastic imagery of ReCollections
seems to conceptually shift from physical to ethereal, as it sparks emotion, bewilderment and wonder.
Forman, a native of Baltimore, MD, who lives and creates in Watertown, MA, received degrees from Brandeis University, Simmons College and Boston University and was trained as a graphic artist specializing in photography. Forman has held many positions within the field of illustration and design, ranging from branding to book cover illustrations to web design. She was senior designer with AOL Time Warner, where she designed the pre-eminent website devoted to African-American culture and where she produced photo illustrations for the daily editorial content. A pioneer of digital collage, Forman has been involved with computers and photography since the earliest derivation of the now ubiquitous Photoshop® first appeared on the market in 1990.
Forman describes her computer-generated practice as "painting with pixels." Indeed, that phrase is an apt one for an artist who spends hours and hours enhancing the form, color, lighting and texture of her own virtual photographs—or the smallest of details within them—and the myriad scans of photo-historical artifacts she collects. It is the exquisite color of her work, however, that catches viewers' eyes and hearts upon entering the gallery. Forman's work may be simple or complex depending on the individual image, but color, an acute sense of light and mood register in the mind's eye long before recognition of individual objects. A crow, a landlocked seafaring vessel, a Victorian child, sunlit clouds or grass, water, trees, book engravings, a dead butterfly, and antique and contemporary ephemera alike populate the archival inkjet prints that Forman creates. However, it is not so much the individual images themselves, but rather their color-saturated harmony and the juxtapositions of disparate unions of past and present that hold the eye and haunt the mind.
Forman, a scavenger, collector and curator of the exquisite, culls digital and analog realms for objects and images to transform and combine. While Forman uses a scanner, digital camera and cell phone to capture contemporary images, the nineteenth-century photographic record is of particular interest to the artist. Amid the fury of Western industrialization, when fixed photography was in its infancy, candle and fireplace light illuminated everyone's homes, and America would divide itself into civil war, the artist finds themes of loss, longing, unexpected happenstance, harsh expedition, sustained suspension and great mystery. Forman's compositions, with their union of antique and contemporary imagery, are unabashed amalgams of interwoven histories. It is truly fitting that the artist fuses the earliest techniques of photography with the most current. Rather than bespeaking specific narratives through such union, and though the artist's titles may lead the associative and imaginative mind in one direction or another, the work does not so much point to specific events as much as to the space and time between them. Her work in general, always seems to depict twilight hours—neither day, nor night, not quite the past and not yet the future, but rather protracted moments. Forman dredges up ghosts and then relocates them on the threshold of now, where they seem animated in their suspension as they beckon us to join them. As recollected and morphed artifacts, they seem to be reminding us of forgotten individuals, remembered times, along with our present moments. Forman's intuitive image combinations remind us of the potency of resurrection, reverence, play and wonder, as well as the responsibilities of the immediate future.
Todd Bartel, Curator