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Swann Galleries - New York
Sale 2345, The Vernacular Eye: Photographic Albums, Snapshots & Objects, 17 April 2014, Lot: 291A
Oversized mixed-media Chinese fan with a selenium-toned silver print photogram on a hand-painted paper surface, including pink flowers on branches and bold green leaves, and an elegant, finely detailed photogram, also with a flora and fauna motif. The overall size is 29 1/2x53 inches (74.9x134.6 cm.) and the paper component is 16 1/2 inches high (41.9 cm.); the wooden slats glued open (as originally conceptualized) and with two red ties on verso.
This piece is included in Fontcuberta's "Palimpsest" series, in which an image (a photograph) is layered on another existing picture (an illustration or a painting).
This unique, one-of-a-kind object features a photographic image known as a "photogram," a cameraless print which is made by placing an object onto a light-sensitized surface and exposing the sheet of paper to light. (Christian Schad, Man Ray, and Moholy-Nagy are known for their fine art photograms of the 1920's-30's.) Technically you cannot repeat the same result.
Fontucubera writes: "This object exemplifies my interest in how nature is represented. Here is a dialogue of graphic signs with different semiotic meanings: the index or track (the photogram) versus the symbol (the painting): in other words, nature vs. culture. It is also a way of producing a "Palimpsest" piece not out of conventional flat image but by doing an intervention in a recycled, already-existing object.
"Chine Fan" is reproduced (full-page) in the catalogue "Paper Gardens: Recent Work from Joan Fontcuberta" (The Art Institute of Chicago, 1990), p. 20, which was published in conjunction with the December 15th, 1990- March 3rd, 1991 exhibition.
The actual fan was purchased in Chinatown. Fontcuberta was "interested in its vernacular nature and how it witnesses popular culture."