New York photographer Janice Mehlman has been exhibiting her photographs throughout the United States and Europe since the the early 1980's. Her work is featured in international museums and corporate collections as well as in major books on the history of photography. Dealing mainly with light and shadow, abstraction, mystery and illusion, Janice Mehlman's unique angle of approach, lighting of the subject and knowledge of composition all contribute to the transformation of real spaces into abstractions of philosophical dimension. Art critic Joe Wallenti has pointed out that the structures and light featured in Mehlman's work feel as if though they were carved, alluding to the photographer's capacity to dissolve recognizable segments of a constructed world into radiant black and white fields of imagination.
EDGES OF REALITY
An artist of unique vision, Mehlman has the capacity to transform unlikely subjects into striking statements, finding rare beauty in the most unassuming places. For over thirty years Janice Mehlman’s distinct point of view has played with the effect light and shadow has upon architecture and other various elements. Sheets of paper, metal, and glass are combined to bring forth compositions that would normally go unnoticed before the human eye, revealing a keen interest in architectural form. As soft lines appear and catch light, they create volumetric spaces that satiate her pieces with an emotion most akin to joyfulness.
Mehlman’s photographic interest in architecture was most poignantly represented in photographs of ancient mosques, taken while in Morocco. When seen through her gaze, these images transformed heavy and dense structures into light and airy elements reminiscent of undulating paper. In a playful gesture, she managed to then turn her photographic eye toward paper; ripping, rolling and placing it in a specific manner, which when combined with just the right amount of light and shadow, turned into suggestions of architectural compositions. These images led to her successful New York exhibition, “Architecture as Paper and Paper as Architecture.” In her next project, Mehlman merged both aforementioned techniques to create collages that appear weightless in a setting devoid of gravity. In pieces such as “Multinational Agreement,” she introduces elements of color, which dissolve recognizable fragments of our constructed world in order to form abstractions of a philosophical nature. Personal difficulties were later reflected in her work as she took to photographing shards of broken glass. These photographs revealed Mehlman’s struggle to create order out of confusion, attempting to arrange sharp, rusty and difficult elements into one integrated being. These works, while poignant, finally gave way to an optimistic change, which can be seen in the photograph currently on view, “Disaster Relief,” which was created directly after Hurricane Sandy heavily damaged her studio in New York in 2012. After finding a discarded photograph of a street sign entitled “Hope” on the ground, she decided to transform it, together with a trash bin and other elements, thus marking a turning point in her work.
Mehlman’s current photographs are a manifestation of joy, light and color that radiate an energy that almost jumps off the page, as various objects join together in unison, reminiscent of a symphony. Delicate instances of linear color unite to form volumetric elements that play off of each other in pieces such as “Dripping with Desire” and “Shifting Tides.” Her most recent work was born out of the discarded edges of a friend’s painterly experimentations with larger compositions. As can be seen in these photographs, Mehlman is able to find beauty, strength, and awe in those objects that may appear useless, or are even unnoticeable, to other people.
Janice Mehlman has exhibited her photographs throughout the United States and Europe since the early 1980's, and her work is featured in International Museum and Corporate Collections as well as in major books on The History of Photography. She is a Professor of Photography, in the Art Department at Kingsborough Community College, of the City University of New York, and divides her time between Pietrasanta, Italy and Brooklyn, New York, where she lives and works.