Consciously Surreal: Photography, the Uncanny, and the Body

January 12 - May 8, 2016

Championed as a medium capable of yielding unmediated copies of nature, photography is often believed to operate in the realm of the factual. The works on view in Consciously Surreal challenged this notion of photographic truth through the purposeful engagement of experimental techniques, fragmentation of the body, and chance encounters. Either positioned on the periphery of Surrealism or working well beyond the movement’s heyday, the artists highlighted in this exhibition nonetheless engaged with surrealist concerns in a variety of ways.


Works by David Teplica, Robert Heinecken, and Manuel Alvarez Bravo duplicated, cropped, and framed the body in such a way that denied its status as a unified whole, echoing the Surrealists’ preoccupation with deconstructing and reconfiguring the human form. In merging the fantastic with the banal, documentary photographers Walker Evans and Frank Paulin faithfully recorded incidences of the uncanny in rural America and the streets of New York respectively. Not afraid to experiment in the darkroom, Jerry Uelsmann and Bernard Siegel combined, overlapped, and overexposed negatives as a means to arrive at both landscape and portrait images that are rather unexpected.


Other photographers represented in the exhibition included Gail Chase, Konrad Cramer, Adam Fuss, David Graham, Ann Hamilton, Barbara Morgan, Alexander Rodchenko, and Joel-Peter Witkin.


Organized by the Palmer Museum of Art.