Richard Davidson
Richard Davidson

Richard Davidson

Philadelphia, PA

For the third time in my not-so-young life, I find myself in a period of intense focus on artistic imagery. The first of these art-focused periods involved an intensive independent study of Romanesque and Gothic art and architecture throughout France and the other countries of Europe. The second period involved collecting contemporary American realist drawings, stretching over 25 years and leading to exhibitions of my growing collection of drawings at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Art Institute of Chicago. The third and current period involves the creation of largely abstract photographs.

At first glance, it appears that there is a large disconnect between the first and the second periods and between the second and the third. However, there is a constant of sensitivity to imagery and meaning and a way of looking at artistic imagery that runs through all three. In many ways, this began to develop in and evolved from the early, intense and independent study of medieval art, architecture, and symbolism. This then established a way of looking and seeing that informed the art collecting activity and now plays a central role in my photographic art. This approach also relates to my professional career as a research scientist, contributing an experimental approach to the work.

The work proposed for presentation involves three series of photographs as described below.

This series involves the creation (in my kitchen) of camera abstractions that are not photographs of any object that has a concrete existence: they do not depict any existing, tangible object that looks like the photographs. However, it should be noted that these photographic abstractions (as well as the photographs in the other series described below) were captured in camera without involving any digital application or manipulation either prior to or after the exposure. The camera was pointed at the edges of very old windows in my kitchen, but the windows do not look like the abstractions created. As these photographs do not depict any existing, tangible object that looks like them, I refer to them as photographing “the nothing that is”. (This phrase is quoted from the poem “The Snow Man” by Wallace Stevens, published in Poetry, XIX #1, October 1921.)

I perceive striking abstractions in the contorted reflections in car surfaces of buildings near where I live. These abstractions arise because of the changes in surface planes in the hoods of cars, and are then further altered by the angles at which I choose to photograph (and as indicated above, without any digital manipulation). In many of the photographs, the entire front of the car was used as a virtual canvas for the reflected elements, with the visual plane extending to cover both the hood and the windshield and even the roof of the car.

This series of photographs is based on the trees in the park across from my apartment (on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia), and they are largely taken through only one window in the apartment. The images are highly dependent on the time of day and the angle of the sunlight. Dramatic images and even abstract patterns can arise from a time of day when there are only long narrow traces of light across the park, with the sunlight streaming through the gaps between the densely arrayed buildings around the square.