Paul Caponigro
Aluminum Series and Vintage Classics

At the AIPAD Photography Show, New York
March 26-29, 2009
and continuing at our new gallery at 122 Grant Ave.
through June 15, 2009

"At the root of creativity is an impulse to understand, to make sense of random and often unrelated details. For me, photography provides an intersection of time, space, light and emotional stance. One needs to be still enough, observant enough and aware enough to recognize the life of the materials, to be able to 'hear through the eyes.'"                                                     ~ Paul Caponigro

For AIPAD 2009 Andrew Smith Gallery of Santa Fe, New Mexico, presents a retrospective of work by Paul Caponigro. Long recognized for his classical landscapes and still life photographs the special one man show will also include a new series of silver gelatin print Aluminum Studies. With a career spanning nearly sixty years, Paul Caponigro is internationally regarded as one of the greatest photographers of our time, Andrew Smith Gallery will exhibit Mr. Caponigro's classic and recent photographs, as well as never before printed photographs dating back to the 1950s. This is one of the few times that Mr. Caponigro has been willing to exhibit his vintage photographs. Mr. Caponigro will be present to meet the public at the Andrew Smith Gallery booth at AIPAD 2009.

Paul Caponigro was born in Boston in 1932. He was already working as a photographer when he first traveled to the western United States in 1953 as a soldier during the Korean War. In the early 1950s, during his army tour of duty in San Francisco, he met and studied with teachers and students of the West Coast School of Photography, including Minor White. During these years his photographs appeared in Aperture magazine and were exhibited at the George Eastman House. In 1966 Caponigro was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship which enabled him to travel to Ireland where began his lifelong interest photographing megalithic sites. In 1976 he made his classic photograph of running white deer titled, "County Wicklow, Ireland."

From the megaliths of Stonehenge and Avebury, to the temples of Japan, the rivers and glades of New England, to the high desert clouds of New Mexico, to still lifes of rocks, flowers, shells and aluminum foil, Caponigro's images of rocks and waves, trees and snow, old houses and riverbeds   are as beautifully soothing and satisfying as a Chopin nocturne. He invites us to pause for a moment and reflect with fresh eyes on subtle movements in nature like the ebb and flow of tides, surfaces polished by wind and water, or twisted by the elements into goblin-shaped knots and whorls encrusted with lichens.

Paul Caponigro has devoted his life to exploring the natural world and architectural forms from antiquity. His vision has roots in Paul Strand's response to the purity of forms, and in the metaphysical/metaphorical tradition of Minor White. But Caponigro primarily seeks inspiration in nature and natural forms.  His printing reflects a heightened sensitivity toward gray and black tonalities.  Indeed,   his print quality is considered the best in the world. Beyond the simple directness of his compositions and his attention to details, Caponigro's photographs convey deeper meanings. Whether the subject is a landscape, a solitary apple, a ring of standing stones, or a simple piece of aluminum foil, his photographs invoke the promise of growth and regeneration mingled with timelessness. This master photographic artist who has spent his life revealing the wondrous in the ordinary currently lives in Maine.

"Each aluminum photograph is like an individual personality from a fiery realm. " ~Paul Caponigro

Since 1999 Caponigro has been working on a series of still lifes. These superbly printed arrangements of weathered rocks, polished shells, rain spattered leaves, brittle corn husks, gnarled wood, and other organic forms invite viewers to pause and reflect on nature's subtle shapes, patterns and textures. The works also explore how light interacts with varying degrees of opaque and transparent surfaces.  Underlying these surface concerns is a meditation on the transmutation of matter over time, and the unexpected beauty that appears as things weather and decompose.

Aluminum Studies, a new series whose subject is light, has been Caponigro subject for nearly two years.   Long in the habit of wrapping left over food in aluminum and putting it in his refrigerator, Caponigro began to notice that the fragments of silvery foil he was removing from pans and bowls were too interesting to toss. He began storing the scraps of foil in paper bags without knowing exactly what to do about them. One day, according to him, they started "rattling" in the bag.  

For two months Caponigro devoted himself to photographing the pieces of foil. The crackled, reflective surfaces sparked his imagination with all sorts of associations; fire imps danced and leapt, masked faces grinned and scowled, galaxies of stars and caches of crystals flared and burned against a magical darkness.    

In late 2008 he began printing the negatives. From the start he had to contend with the challenge of printing high contrast images in which light bounced off reflective and refractive surfaces, and do justice to the quality of light coming through the foil. Some images leaned more towards forms while others verged on pure light. Each piece of foil had its own distinct, fiery character, which Caponigro articulated in his printing.  

"People will see what they want to see in these prints," says Caponigro, "If the photographs do their job as both form and light they will generate different images in different people."


Liz Kay

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