LUMINOUS VISIONS: FABIOLA MENCHELLI
This week on Lenscratch, we look at a selection of artists creatively engaging with analog photographic processes within their practice.
In the profound darkness of her darkroom, Fabiola Menchelli renders brilliantly color photograms, manipulating the photographic paper and exposing it to multiple temporalities of light using an array of color filters. By folding the substrate at the moment of exposure, Menchelli adds a performative element to her darkroom practice, articulating a direct relationship between the light and the gestural movements of her body, which shape the images into sculptural pieces that are then mounted onto custum-bent metal plates. The work is created through transitional moments, while the paper unfolds the photograms become records of an unseen performance. The resulting images occupy a liminal space at the intersection of sculpture and photography.
Menchelli’s abstract works have a distinct formal elegance and a persistent eye for construction. Be it her Polaroid images, her cyanotypes, or now with these new works; there is a sensorial gesture that points to the materiality of the photographic object.
www.fabiolamenchelli.com and @fabiolamenchelli
I have always considered photography a malleable, democratic and diverse medium that has, like any other medium, a history full of conventions which we must revisit in order to learn and unlearn, and thus observe ourselves from new perspectives. Experimental photography has allowed me to expand my research towards practices and languages that cross several disciplines, and from these interdisciplinary conversations I like to rethink the medium and its multiple possibilities.
Experimentation is for me a physical way of locating the meaning of the work, and requires a reorientation of the body. One of the constant ideas that runs through my work is to think of vision as a process of inversion, not only in the photographic medium, through the negative and the positive, but also as a physical process of vision. For me the work holds a language that I hope will interfere with our perspective and “push us to see differently, to imagine the opposite and to ask ourselves how we might reconsider the forms we are given”.
For the past three years I have focused on working with color photograms. The process of working in color in the darkroom is much more demanding and exhaustive than any other I have worked with, since among many other things, it requires working in complete darkness. This led me to change the way I make images. The body in the dark becomes more present, and the other senses become more acute; therefore, instead of trying to focus my vision to create the images, I began to fold the photographic paper and expose it to multiple temporalities of light. The paper became the support and the tool to make the images. The final pieces are photographs and sculptures that unfold in space. I like to think of them also as events that unfold before the viewer. They function as records of their own experience as they are created from movements and folds in the dark. At the same time they are records of alchemical processes, as they contain and reflect light, radiating an embodied presence and seek to generate a perceptual experience in the viewer.
The work has led me to reconsider the fixed mechanisms of observation that we impose when observing. The act of observing goes beyond vision, it can be a subtle and generous approach, which opposes the historical relationship of photography with violence in the act of shooting or capturing an image. Instead, to turn the lens inward, working without a camera, to let the physical structure of the medium define itself, expanded and unstable, liquid, open and multiple.
Fabiola Menchelli received an MFA from Massachusetts College of Art in 2013. Her most recent exhibitions include, Dark Moves: Fabiola Menchelli & Heather Watkin, curated by Stephanie at The Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College, (Portland, OR 2023) I carry all the names I’m given, Arroniz Arte Contemporáneo (CDMX, 2022), Parallax, ProxyCo Gallery (New York, 2021), Under the Blue Sun, Marshall Gallery (Santa Monica, 2021). She has been invited to artistic residencies such as Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (Skowhegan, me), Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (Omaha, ne), Casa Wabi (Puerto Escondido, Mexico), Casa Nano (Tokyo, Japan) and Unlisted Projects (Austin, tx). Menchelli has been honored with the National System of Art Creators FONCA grant (2019-2022), the xvi Photography Biennial Acquisition Award from Centro de la Imagen (2014), the Fulbright-García Robles Scholarship (2011-2013), FONCA-CONACYT for studies abroad (2011-2013), and the MassArt Dean’s Award (2012-2013). Her most recent book titled Desdoble, by Fabiola Menchelli & Andrea Chapela, ESPAC México (2022), was translated to English by the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College. Her work has been included in Pictures, ed. Ken Miller, There. Editions, (USA, 2022), and in publications such as Aperture, Osmos, Terremoto, L’Officiel, and Glasstire. Menchelli has taught in numerous private and public institutions including Reed College between 2018-2019. Her work is represented by ProxyCo Gallery in New York, Marshall Contemporary in L.A. and Arroniz Arte Contemporáneo in México City. She currently lives and works in México City. Menchelli’s work is part of the JP Morgan Chase Art Collection, the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, the Centro de la Imagen Museum, Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Casa Wabi, Reed College, as well as numerous private and library collections.
Posts on Lenscratch may not be reproduced without the permission of the Lenscratch staff and the photographer.
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