Over the course of the past decade, Jim Dingilian has developed a body of work in which he painstakingly renders ephemeral imagery by hand on found objects. This exhibition brings together three singular series of recent sculptures that the artist has modified by subtraction—the careful erasure or removal of material— to produce optically realistic representations.
Using old wooden school desktops whose surfaces he has covered entirely with pencil, Dingilian “draws” atmospheric landscapes by erasing the graphite; repurposing empty glass bottles, the artist smokes their interiors with candle soot, and then through a process of delicate scraping depicts the marginal landscapes where such discarded bottles might be found; and utilizing aluminum beer and soda cans, Dingilian folds, punches, polishes, and sands their surfaces to create objects that reference nineteenth-century daguerreotype portraits.
Dingilian started his career as a photographer and the work in this exhibition, although not photographic, has been significantly informed by the nature of photography and its history. The landscape works also share affinities with nineteenth-century landscape painting, particularly due to the dramatic depiction of light, but differ significantly because of their emotional content: instead of exhibiting spiritual exaltation, they present a more melancholic view of human experience. The landscapes the artist chooses never embody classical beauty, but rather places of either numbing banality or unaccountable foreboding.
Dingilian’s interest in the phenomenon of light is clearly apparent in the works that resemble daguerreotypes. Just like an actual daguerreotype, the images on Dingilian’s can pieces are clearly visible only when viewed at an angle where one’s point of view is in correct relationship to the light source. The printed graphics that remain on the cans after the artist’s manipulation—Ballantine, Budweiser, Narragansett—offer poetic hints to their original lives.
The memories and associations that are conjured by the found objects chosen by Dingilian are amplified by the images he overlays on their surfaces. Dingilian’s work, although exhibiting a sense of nostalgia, avoids the simply sentimental with its mysterious sense of loss and longing.
Richard Klein, Exhibitions Director