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Uses a highly innovative style to create what he terms are "photographic monoprints" that are a blend of photography and painting.
I photograph with black and white film and use basic developing techniques. Where it shifts is after the use of the developer and stop bath and before the print is fixed. At that point, I squeegee off the excess water and place the print onto a sheet of glass under a bank of standard incandescent lights. Then I start to fog the print. Fogging is the action of light striking the paper and shifting the tonal balance--all the colors you see in a final print are inherent in the paper itself. To stop the print from turning darker as the incandescent light is absorbed by the paper, I simply paint selectively with fixer, and that acts as an immediate stop to the fogging process. Over the course of an hour or so, I build up through fogging and painting with fixer a relationship of tones that I want, which is a purely intuitive decision, I make sure that the rest of the print is fixed, and that the sheet is processed as archivally as possible.
In work since about 1984 I’ve also been breaking down the standard rectangular borders created by the easel in the typical printing process. Another major change that I have made to the basic process is to selectively tone the silver prints with certain permanent metal toners, such as gold chloride, selenium and sulfide. These toners react chemically with the silver crystals and create a whole new range of colors-- from the reddish-brown of selenium to the deep brown of sulfide to the blue-gray and midnight blue and even pale red tones of the gold chloride. The result of this work is difficult to pre-visualize, and often it’s not until the print is completely dry that I can see what I’ve done. In the most recent work, I feel the notion of the monoprint is more or less absolute, since I’m unable to duplicate the emotion and form of any previous print.
Denny Moers (November 2013)
Robert Creeley (Foreword for the Brown exhibit, December 1993)
The outside stays there despite our insistent attempts to overcome its distracting actuality. All human fact is at best a compromise with those limits which, as the poet Charles Olson said, “any of are inside of...” We read our worlds as a recognition of ourselves because we live in them, unrelieved. A friend speaks of Huxley’s character in Chrome Yellow preferring the subway just that it, like religions, provides a securing and entirely human tunnel through otherwise conflicting possibilities. It’s all man-made, so to speak, all thought of.
Art, however, must live in a more fraught situation, responding to what it cannot altogether know by virtue of what it nonetheless can see and so feel. It makes do with whatever confronts it, translating, as Denny Moers has said, the imaging, the imagination, of landscapes of time and place in the diversity of their survival. Thus, a fragment of a quattrocento Italian fresco will echo in his recognition of its human proposal, of that which it in turn so felt and wished to make explicit.
Feelings are the values here. They prove the stabilizing connection for all these determined landscapes and figures and details of architecture. Someone had so seen each thing, worked to accomplish its reality. If one thinks that Moers’ work in turn now transforms such primary “subjects,” certainly it does. Translation is transformation. But the stem, the issue, the constant, is remarkably vivid and immediate. One feels no redundancy or distracting contest with a previous instance or time.
Pound said, echoing Confucius, “Make it new.” Each day, make it new. That character of the new must come from the fact of its powers of initiation, of seeing it, saying it, in some way for the first time. But realize that such a first time is always one’s own. Here there is a literal recording of that experience, the determination of a wash which lifts and gives tone to the initiating image itself, seeing it thus anew. Recognitions, responses, are physical events of transformation. By adding themselves, they change that which first pro-voked them.
Surely one wants to see as much as possible, and to think about it. One hopes that the familiar will prove finally an investment, not an accumulating despair. Time is both enemy and friend. So seeing becomes believing, and belief sight. It is the exceptional power of this art that these two human possibilities here join to become one.
The American poet, Charles Olson described the process of composing poetry as an open field; words forming their meaning directly and concretely on this ‘landscape made of paper’. I have always felt the visual experience as collaboration with this open field; sensitized to everything I could bring to it and receive from it through the interaction of light, chemistry, film and paper.
I have photographed subject matter as diverse as New England architecture, medieval wall frescoes and tomb reliefs, construction sites, western landscapes, abandoned structures and the visual remains of cultures from around the world.
The act of photographing often demands attention to technical details and I have countered this technical control with an equal involvement using the fluidity of accident in the making of my monoprints. I call this the ‘struggle for the horizon line’ and its balance continues to evolve.
Photographing and printing have been one of transformation from the literal to the imagined; from the seen to the felt; from the invisible to the visible. The poetic insight for me is one of intangible qualities that can sustain a viewer through a core mystery made manifest by the artist.
My first serious body of work began in graduate school where I met and was befriended by the poet, Robert Creeley in Buffalo, NY. He began using my images for his book covers. I then moved to Rhode Island to become Aaron Siskind’s first printer and assistant. His influence on my work found focus with an intense physical absorption with the act of photographing and printing; as though the artist and subject were in animate dialogue.
As I explored new subject matter, the process of making these monoprints evolved from subtle, pastel like tones into an expressive bold range of hues from deep blues to saturated reds—all coaxed out through the chemical and light interaction of black and white photographic paper.
The idea of the monoprint is central to my working process as all prints are unique and can render different ideas and feelings each time the image is printed in the darkroom.
From the first architectural abstractions to the current body of work with landscapes and structures from around the world, I have sought to sustain an emotional core and further a sense of mystery with the understanding that subject matter is always internal.
Denny Moers (November 2013)
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