Davidson Contemporary is proud to present the exhibition Anonymous Population: New York 1951-1980 by Thomas Witte. This is Witte’s first solo show at Davidson Contemporary.
The bases of the work are 35mm slides, purchased through online auctions and estate sales. Witte first creates reverse drawings which are then cut out of a single sheet of paper to their final state. For this exhibition, the artist has chosen images from various collections, all unknown to the artist. The photographers, sellers, and subjects of the images are all anonymous – images of a familiar city, from an unfamiliar era.
The drawings themselves cannot be transferred exactly as they appear in the slide or else huge swaths of paper will fall out. The artist must make decisions both technical and artistic to decide what can and cannot, and what should and should not be removed. Despite its inherently two-dimensional medium, the work becomes sculptural. What is considered negative space in the photo is rendered in full, uncut blocks of paper, and details emerge from where Witte has cut away at the paper. There is a dichotomy of meaning throughout Witte’s work – both the product and the process. It begins with an obsolete analog technology purchased through modern means. It then moves to a drawing but becomes a three-dimensional object through a process of removal.
Faces, lights, reflection, and shadows are all revealed; whole portions of background and foreground are omitted to draw the viewer’s focus to what the artist feels is the most compelling portion of the photo. Thomas Witte’s work begins as somebody else’s vision, seen through the viewfinder of a camera. It becomes more than mere appropriation as he manipulates the image, adding, omitting, and removing mass until the image is wholly his, claiming the city and its anonymous denizens as his own.
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