Joanne DuganSeclusion Meditations
A Virtual Exhibition16 July - 27 September 2020
This body of work was created by the artist as her personal response to the global community in crisis.
At its inception, the Seclusion Meditations series was the artist's response to a newly quiet, shell-shocked world. Joanne Dugan lives and works in Manhattan, a place infamous for its bright, noisy, and endlessly busy atmosphere. When New York City became the epicentre in the United States for the pandemic, it was as if the lights and the volume of the city were switched off. The change in atmosphere was palpable, the streets empty, and the only sounds were those of sirens which served as a reminder of the pandemic quietly ravaging the city.
Dugan took to her studio and channelled her worry, her nervous energy, and her anxiety of the unknown into her art. The artist brings her ongoing meditation practice to the making of her works, where the creation and assembly of the finished pieces involves repetitive movements and intricate hand-cutting techniques as she creates small works to reflect the new quiet world she now inhabits. The small scale of this series is purposeful and informs the meaning of the work, reflecting Dugan's own interior state as she was isolated in a quieted city. Working in a reduced scale was also practical, as it allowed the artist agility within her creative process to easily move with the pieces and revisit them even when outside of her studio setting, allowing a new-found accessibility to her practice and image-making. This series is Dugan's personal response to the global community in crisis.
City streets, subway systems, lights, power, data storage, technology - all definitive symbols of living on the grid and indicators of modern life. A grid provides order, organisation, and understanding as well as dictating the pattern of daily life in our contemporary world.
In a similar way, grids have been harnessed and utilised in modern and contemporary art. Agnes Martin, Sol LeWitt, Bernd and Hilla Becher - all are artists who have used and subverted the grid within their creative process. The grid itself becomes both the framework for constructing a composition as well as the composition itself within modern art.
Within its rigidity a grid can also provide freedom, as it can offer a path for continued mark-making and seriality. Joanne Dugan's mastering of the grid within her Meditations series not only connects the individual elements of each composition, but it also binds the works together as an ongoing exploration. There is an element of continual reference to what came before, and the potential for what will come to be within Dugan's Meditations series. As the artist was in isolation in New York, experiencing various states of physical and emotional upheaval, utilising the grid within her works offered Dugan guidance through her creative process. These works of abstraction constructed within the formality of a grid arrangement are linked to the artist's continued search for meaning and enlightenment.
The Infinite Line
The lines created between the arranged photograms serve as a catalyst, suggesting a path and demanding it to be followed.
The negative space created by the grids in Dugan's work allows the viewer to see not just what the artist has chosen to present, but to also imagine the possibility of the abstracted forms extending in all directions infinitely. The lines created between the arranged photograms of Dugan's collages serve as a catalyst, providing a suggested path and demanding it to be followed.
Here, perfection is set aside in favour of the artist's touch. Each individual image is hand-cut and arranged on the supporting board. Placed methodically, with purposeful repetition, the artist finds meaning and stability in an uncertain time through the abstracted forms that come to life through Dugan's meditative creative process. As the artist is conveying her own experiences through her work, she is also speaking of a universal experience of isolation, uncertainty and fear that is shared through her community and indeed worldwide.
The lines of the gridded compositions suggest an infinite consciousness. The works in the Seclusion Meditations series are very much individual pieces, but they are connected by the grid lines running through their abstracted forms like life-giving arteries, just as each individual human being is connected by this unprecedented shared global experience.
This repetition provides structure, and in that there is a comfort.
Repetition is a cornerstone in Dugan's meditative practice as well as in her creative process. She presents the viewer with reoccurring forms constructed from abstracted shadows and structured grid lines throughout her oeuvre, and we see this specifically in the Seclusion Meditation series. This repetition provides structure, and in that there is a comfort. Throughout our daily lives, we would be lost without repetition.
If repetition is a means of ordering the world, it can also be the catalyst of disorganizing and undoing. The disruption of lockdown, the uncertainty caused by financial worries, sickness, and loss sees the repetition we rely on shattered, its precarious hold on the order of things vanished. Here repetition is both the creator of a utopian and dystopian reality. Dugan's use of repetition in this series suggests a process in which the artist makes sense of the senseless and attempts to bring order to that which is in hopeless disarray.
Off the Grid
During her lockdown in Manhattan the artist was forced by unforeseen issues with her living space to take refuge outside of the city, quite literally off the grid. Finding refuge in a small coastal village, Joanne Dugan continued working throughout her isolation in a new environment. Away from her studio and darkroom in New York, outside of the blaring silence that replaced the once deafening buzz of the city, Dugan found her work evolving in response to her surroundings, her available materials and to the quickly escalating social activism and political conflict in cities through the United States.
Without a darkroom, the artist turned to creating her works in the light - working outside in the sunlight. As we venture off the grid with Joanne Dugan, we witness her exploring her process in cyanotype, where she hand-paints the cyanotype solution onto specially-treated silver gelatin paper and exposing the works to sunlight before returning to her make-shift studio where she hand-cuts and arranges the parts into a collage composition. The resulting works are textured, vibrant and tactile photogram collages in hues of blue and shades of white.
The silver gelatin pieces speak directly to the cyanotype works through the use of recognisable shapes and gridded compositions, responding to each other as if in perpetual conversation.
It is Dugan's repetition of forms, themes and structure within her collaged grids that allows for the seriality of her work. The silver gelatin pieces speak directly to the cyanotype works through the use of recognisable shapes and gridded compositions, responding to each other as if in perpetual conversation. In this way, the photographic collages of the Seclusion Meditations series are connected to previous works in the artist's oeuvre.
These unique pieces thus become part of a greater whole. Whilst the individual works in the Seclusion Meditations series stand beautifully complete and diverse as independent compositions, they are but one element in a larger ongoing conversation. Just as Dugan's reflections noted in the creation of these works is just one individual's understanding of a wider shared experience.
Deconstructing the Grid
As artists, we don’t control. We respond.
- Joanne Dugan
If the grid is order, then off grid is the deconstruction of that order. With the world in chaos, a palpable life-altering change in the air, and uncertainty for its global citizens, the grid has quite literally been broken down. Through her work Joanne Dugan is suggesting that perhaps a new way forward can be found.
Here, we see the artist manipulating the idea of the grid within her works. It is still loosely used as a guide, but we see more divergence and even risk-taking with the bold brushstrokes of cyanotype, the inclusion of wild diagonal lines and organic shapes taking form. These pieces speak to surrender - letting go of the orderly and the familiar - and an embrace of the unknown.
Order in the Chaos
Artwork that is completely abstract - free from any expression of the environment is like music and can be responded to in the same way. Our response to line and tone and colour is the same as our response to sounds. And like music abstract art is thematic. It holds meaning for us that is beyond expression in words.
- Agnes Martin
On a Clear Day (1975)
The making is the meditation.
Joanne Dugan speaks of her image making as a meditative process. Utilising a slow and methodical approach to rendering a work, her mark-making is a purposeful response to her surrounding environment and the outside world. An introvert in her method, the artist works in solitary silence finding rhythm in the repetition and creative inspiration within the process.
This work brought me back to the light.
Joanne Dugan conveys an optimism and hopefulness within her assembled grids. In many of her compositions, one image in the grid will stand apart from the others - a differing shape or tone perhaps. This is meant to represent the flash of insight that occurs through meditation. In Buddhist practice this awakening is called Satori, or enlightenment.
Art as Activism
Art does not have to be overtly political to engage in activism. Through her image-making, Joanne Dugan sought her own form of activism - that of creation. She channelled inspiration from both the quiet of lockdown and the rallying cries of the Black Lives Matter movement calling for change and equality into her art.
A series that began as a reflection of a quiet time became a comment on the urgent and necessary demand for systematic change. The silence was broken by that which is too important to be paused by lockdown, the new noise of that powerful hope and thunderous rage is also reflected in these works.
The Seclusion Meditations series was created by Joanne Dugan as her personal response to a world community in crisis. Conscious that the inspiration for this work is a story that is not just her own, but rather one of a greater shared community, Joanne Dugan has pledged to give back a portion of her proceeds from the sale of this series to an arts centre in her local community. 10% of sales will go to The Harlem School of the Arts, a community arts centre that is committed to levelling the field and providing opportunity by empowering young people from across the multi-cultural and socio-economic spectrum by providing an exceptional, accessible arts education.
Black Box Projects is continuing the Art for Good programme, where 10% of all gallery sales are donated to Hospital Rooms, a charity championing the healing power of art by commissioning world-class artists to create art installations and art programmes for secure mental health facilities in the NHS service. More than ever, they are in desperate need of donations to help them stay afloat.
As painter Gerhard Richter said, "Where there is art, there is hope." We are all in this together.
Just as the small scale of these pieces meant a more accessible way of working for the artist, Joanne Dugan wishes to present these works in a more accessible fashion to her collectors. We are delighted to have the opportunity to offer the works from the Seclusion Meditations series to you for a special price of £ 1,000 print only for a period of 30 days. From the August 19, the works will be absorbed into the gallery collection at their normal previously established values £ 2000 per piece.
For prices, availability and full details of Joanne Dugan's Seclusion Meditations, please reference the exhibition list.
Please do contact Black Box Projects with any questions or if you would like to arrange an appointment to view works from the Seclusion Meditations exhibition or other pieces from our Joanne Dugan gallery collection.
Black Box Projects is delighted to present this suite of all new works by American artist Joanne Dugan in the forthcoming exhibition, Seclusion Meditations. This exhibition explores a series of 32 unique photo-collage compositions in cyanotype and silver gelatin, all created when the artist was locked down in her Manhattan-based studio whilst New York was the epicentre of the pandemic in America and later while isolating in a quiet village on the coast of Massachusetts.
These works speak to finding quiet amidst the noise, calm in the chaos, and channelling creativity in isolation. They are a visual practice in meditation. The series was created by Joanne Dugan as her personal response to a world community in crisis.
Please join us for a virtual gallery opening and private view on Saturday 18th of July at 8pm UK / 3pm NYC / 12 noon LA on Instagram. We will be sharing a celebratory glass of bubbly with the artist and discussing her newest series presented in the Seclusion Meditations exhibition. Find us Saturday on Instagram Live via the Black Box Projects Instagram page.
Joanne Dugan in the studio, New York City. Image courtesy of Daniel Prosky.
Working exclusively with analogue silver gelatin and cyanotype prints, Joanne Dugan creates unique works by hand using traditional photographic tools and processes, often without the use of a camera. Multiples are printed, cut and assembled by hand - the physical print is both the subject and the object in Dugan's work.
Dugan's works are a triumph of minimal abstraction reminiscent of late modernist and optical art. The stark, monochromatic black and white contrasts and repetitions create the impression of movement within these quiet, slow-process, meditative works.
Joanne Dugan is a visual artist who lives and works in New York City.
Her current practice involves the experimental use of traditional silver-based analogue materials and technology to explore photography as a three-dimensional, physical medium. Her unique-image works utilize intricate, repetitive hand-cutting and painting techniques, chemical alterations and vintage equipment to pay homage to the physical limitations and opportunities found in analogue methods, while also exploring the potential for creating works informed by mindfulness practices. Each piece is fully rendered by hand, slowly.
Joanne's works have been exhibited in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Amsterdam and Japan. They are part of public and private collections and have been featured in The New York Times T Magazine and the Harvard Review.
As an author, Joanne's image/text pairings have been published in seven books, including two fine-art monographs. Her limited-edition artist book Mostly True is in the permanent library collections of The J. Paul Getty Museum, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The New York Public Library and The George Eastman House. She is the editor of Summertime (Chronicle Books), a hardcover photography book featuring the work 46 emerging and established photographers.
Joanne is a faculty member of the International Center of Photography in New York City and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. She has taught and lectured about the creative process in numerous institutions across the country. As an active mentor for students in many contexts, she is at work on a new book about the use of photography as a daily creative practice. Her studio and darkroom are located in a 19th-century building in Union Square and she lives in Harlem.
**Please note prices are quoted as print only and subject to VAT of 20% where applicable.
**Prices and availability are subject to change without prior notice.
**Framing prices can be advised and quoted upon request.
Please contact the gallery for more details of this series and to arrange a private viewing.