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James Welling

Wexner Center for the Arts

AS WITH FRANK STELLA BACK IN THE '60s, everyone seems to want James Welling on their team. When Welling first began exhibiting in the early '80s, his black-and-white close-ups of crumpled tinfoil, strewn chunks of Jell-O, and lush velvet drapes sprinkled with pastry flakes were widely applauded as postmodern object lessons that ironized the very possibility of reference. More recently, writers like Walter Benn Michaels and Ulrich Loock have hailed these same photos as rich in metaphorical possibility, even if what they end up referencing is photography itself by dramatically figuring such medium-specific properties as grain, gelatin emulsion, and the play of light and dark Postmodernists and modernists alike continue to pen catalogue essays on Welling's behalf—including, for this occasion, Michael Fried, who praises the tinfoil photos for their “Mallarméan metaphoric expansiveness.”

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