How many billboards?
James Welling
Photo by Gerard Smulevich

James Welling

Photographer James Welling's varied body of work is driven by curiosity and experimentation with the photographic image. He has explored straight photography, landscape photography, and postmodern image making, including such unlikely subjects as crumpled tin foil. Welling sometimes combines Conceptualism, Minimalism, abstraction, and traditional photography. He has used unconventional cropping, super close-ups, repetition of forms, and color alteration in order to push both the conceptual and perceptual possibilities of the photograph. Welling has a deep, encyclopedic knowledge of the history of photography and is fascinated by the medium's most basic concepts, including the camera as a technical mechanism for capturing light, the importance of the photographic print, and how things are revealed photographically as opposed to how they appear to the human eye.

From the late 1990s to the present, Welling has alternated between abstracted representational photography, such as the Glass House Series (2006-2009), and the photogram, a darkroom technique that has gained renewed popularity through Welling's influence. For How Many Billboards?, Welling experiments further with photogram abstractions. His billboard image reveals rectangular shapes of deep blue with touches of brown slashing through a black background. Viewers are not meant to identify "what" the image is but rather to mentally slow down and think, prompting a self-conscious process of looking.
By Lisa Henry

LOCATION: La Brea Ave, south of the 10 Freeway, on the east side of the street, facing north.
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James Welling (b. 1951)
James Welling received his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, where he worked primarily in video, studying with Wolfgang Storechle and John Baldessari. In the late 1970s, Welling emerged as an artist for whom photographic norms are not a given but rather a field of contest between different formal languages. His recent museum shows include The Pictures Generation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009), the 2008 Whitney Biennial, and a 25-year survey of his work at Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Welling exhibits at Regen Projects, Los Angeles; David Zwirner, New York; Donald Young, Chicago; Galerie Nelson-Freeman, Paris; Maureen Paley, London; Galerie Nächt St. Stephan Rosmarie Schwarzwälder, Vienna; and Wako Works of Art, Tokyo. He is on the faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Art.
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