Traveling back in time, James Welling (Art MFA 74) presents Iconographia, his 11th solo exhibition with Regen Projects in Los Angeles. Named after Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck’s 17th-century intaglio portraits, Welling’s collection of images reanimates Roman and Greek busts. These Personae are featured alongside images from his Cento series. The exhibition opens with a reception on Saturday, July 9 at 6 pm and runs through Saturday, Aug. 20.
Sourcing eyes, jewelry, and clothes from the paintings of well-known artists of yore, Welling then recreates the hair and make-up of these ancient sculptures according to his artistic design. The Personae depict individuals predominantly from Rome, with a few from ancient Greece, Egypt, Syria, and North Africa.
Welling came across the inspiration for his collection when, while working on the Mediterranean sculptures and artifacts in his Cento collection, he discovered the celebrated Korai statues of Athens. “I reanimated one, Kore 674, by inserting green eyes, borrowed from an Édouard Manet painting, into her stone face and by coloring her hair bright red,” he was quoted in Regen Projects’ exhibition announcement.
The Connecticut-born artist studied at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh before pursuing his MFA at CalArts. Living between both coasts in New York and Los Angeles, Welling headed the photography program at UCLA from 1995 to 2016, and has been a lecturer and professor in the Visual Arts Program at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts.
Beyond his exhibitions with Regen Projects, Welling’s work has been seen at galleries across the US and Europe, including Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art; Musée des Arts Contemporains, Montreal; George Eastman Museum, Rochester, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Carnegie Museum of Art, Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston; New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Kunsthalle Bern, Bern, Switzerland, among others.
His work has received many accolades, including the Julius Shulman Institute Excellence in Photography Award from Woodbury University, California; the Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography in New York; and the DG Bank-Forder Prize in Photography from the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany.
—by Ishika Muchhal