Denny Moers, American (1953 - )

Denny Moers

A Note by the Artist

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. He encouraged my work and began using my images for his book covers. I moved to New England 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

Denny Moers has become known for his highly imaginative, technically innovative photographs, which encompass subject matter as diverse as New England architecture, medieval wall frescoes, ancient Egyptian tomb reliefs, contemporary construction sites and most recently, western desertscapes. he uses the term photographic monoprint to describe the unique quality of each of his images, which he creates by controlling the action of light on the chemicals in sensitized photographic paper during the print developing process. His black and white pictures thus exhibit an extraordinary range of colors, from black to deep rust to pale reds and rich blues.

Denny Moers was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1953. He received his B.A. from Empire State College, (SUNY NY) in 1975 and an M.F.A. from the Visual Studies Work- shop in 1977. During the early eighties, he worked as Aaron Siskind's first assistant. He currently is adjunct professor of photography at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, and has served as guest lecturer at Harvard University and the Rhode Island School of Design , among other institutions. He has received the Fellowship in Photography Award from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts three times. His photographs are included in numerous public and private collections, among them the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, Massachusetts; the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem; and the Museo Rufino Tamayo in Mexico City.

In addition to numerous one-person exhibitions, the artist's work has been included in many important group shows, among the most recent of which have been La Matiere, L'ombre, La Fiction at the Bibliotheque Nationale De France (1994), Degrees of Abstraction-From Moris Lewis to Robert Mapplethorpe (related exhibit), at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (1995), and Calm and Commotion: Abstract Art from the Permanent Collection, at the Mississippi Museum of Art (1999).

In his earliest works, Moers drew upon architectural forms and details which he found in buildings throughout New England. These softly colored, elegant images gave way to more complex, richly colored and highly imaginative pictures following a series of trips abroad during the eighties. Narrative wall paintings from the Italian renaissance, medieval Yugoslavian frescoes, Turkish sculptures and scenes of ancient Egypt carved in low relief were transformed and translated by Moers into his own form of visual poetry. In the most recent works, constructions sites and desertscapes are shown as if lit by the palest of sunsets or the most ominous foreboding. But the sunsets, like all of Moers' work, are his creations rather than nature's.

Moers has stated that music and poetry have been the primary influences upon his work. He sees poetry at its best as incorporating both mystery and the sublime. The distinguished poet Robert Creeley has written in his foreword to the catalogue and exhibition, Figments of a Landscape: Photographic Monoprints by Denny Moers: "Feelings are the values here. They prove the stabilizing connection for all these determined landscapes and figures and details of architecture". Moers himself has quoted and feels a particular kinship to the statement made by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who, in describing the angels in his Elegies, claimed that he was trying to "make invisible the visible".

Diana Johnson, Director, David Winton Bell Gallery
List Art Center, Brown University

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