In David Goldes’ photography, objects become images by either perception or imagination. The objects refer to constituent conditions outside of the photographic frame, to unveil the experiential dimension of perception.

A prestigious McKnight alumni having received the award six times since 1986, Goldes’ background in science has allowed him to document and frame his photographs as events or remnants of events that point to the enacting of perception. Conceptually, the planning, setting up, and capturing of the images owes much to the artist’s long time fascination with pictures in science manuals. The use of black and white photography, the simplicity of the composition, and the meditative lighting indicate a distinct photographic vocabulary.

In the privacy of his studio, Goldes has wrapped a variety of everyday objects and living spaces with metallic mesh before arranging the resulted shapes to photograph them. But the process relies on an almost affective composition where memory and imagination filter our recognition abilities. As one looks at the photographs, a sense of the gap between rational, scientific explanation and the mystery of the visible-invisible arises. It is the vocabulary of science that describes the corporeal moments the photograph seem to picture. Yet most of the times, these spontaneous environments evade the photographic set. The objects are stripped of their materiality with only a trace copy of the metallic mesh to express the object’s surface tension. Strange intimate properties unveil the transparencies and transitions of these objects as if pointing to the visual evidence of invisible phenomena our eyes must learn to capture. A work of artist, Traces produces not only images, but an eye and a specific seeing.

The artist’s ties to modern painters are evident in his intention to envision invisibility and the invisible becoming of the visible. Specific references to the works of Cézanne (photograph #8) or Picasso, and the apparent anachronism of the compositions point to Goldes’ exploration of the photographic space in similar ways to Cézanne’s investigations of the pictorial space. But the translucent and monochromatic shapes are not an attempt to discuss the aesthetic quality of transparency – the photographs reveal an aesthetics of the missing object and by this an appreciation of the everyday object and our ability to capture its resonances. The work is shown to us for a seeing that pierces through visibility and trains our eyes to see things by a new vision – History of the eye, and the history of art. By observing the phenomena of everyday life, the delicacy of the temporary  and the objects’ transitions into evolving states, we grasp a nostalgic sense of time and feel the immaterial reflection back towards our body and our senses. This is not only the temporalization of the artwork as such, but a glimpse into the delicate transformations of things from one state to another. It is the experiential dimension of Goldes’ photography that materializes the imaginary quality of objects and spaces alike. On the boundary between imagination and perception, through ghost-like images that enable the viewer to clearly distinguish between the objects, a perceptual and memorial ambiguity also speak of the artist’s deep reflection on the limitations of photography.

Sartre noted that while perceived objects come to us over time through our senses, imagined objects come to us all at once. This difference led me to making pictures of objects made from partially transparent material so that all sides could be seen simultaneously. The hope was to make an object that had qualities of being both perceived and imagined.

David Goldes

By using the metallic mesh, the artist and the viewers indeed see something all at once. The photograph is a residue, a memory defying rational space. Everything seems to float, yet everything remains in a perfect equilibrium. The arrangements express the relativity of notions such as particularity or place and help the viewer reach beyond the obvious toward the intangible. The simple settings, almost reminiscent of a mechanical age, unveil the transitory and imperceptible event. The most surprising of these settings, Alexander Fleming’s Laboratory of Glorious Contamination (photograph #2), is an authentic ‘memory chamber’ and speaks of the role of accident in our lives. Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, is an expression of the accidental that we must all the more so embrace and learn to see in our lives. (It is notorious that penicillin was a rather accidental discovery.)

Alexander Fleming’s Laboratory of Glorious Contamination is not a photograph like others. It is David Goldes’ first attempt to show his work as a sculpture instead of making a photograph of it. And it is an installation at the same time. A small square opening in the wall inside the artist’s studio allows us to see the setting from the photographer’s own vantage point. We do not only see the ‘sculptures’ as such, but see through the wall as if through a lens. Our eyes see through the photographer’s eyes – our eyes become photography, and a photography of the immaterial. As one ventures seeing inside this memory chamber, the play of light and shadows unveils further photographic subtlety. Shadows on the wall seem to have a kind of materiality that almost is greater than the objects themselves. This, too, is an expression of just how relevant the accident and second intentions are.

These classic still life compositions unveil the absence of anything corporeal. It is still life photography, just without the objects – we see the pellicles of what we might otherwise not see. Here lies the power of photography: to divide the visible and the invisible, the appearance and disappearance. In David Goldes’ work, photography is an instant of illumination, a momentary crystallization of visibility. Objects and the viewer share a transitional movement of performative seeing where the immaterial consistence of the objects allows the eye to yield through space and time to see the visible as it has never been seen. Photography unveils the mutual immanence, the trailing of experience, without a perceptible transition. While purely abstract, David Goldes’ photographs speak of something that must have happened, even if only in our imagination.


Text by Sabin Bors / July 3, 2014. All rights reserved.



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David Goldes received a B.A. in Chemistry and Biology from SUNY at Buffalo, a MA from Harvard in Molecular Genetics and a M.F.A. from the Visual Studies Workshop in Photography. Investigating historical efforts at understanding physical phenomena associated with electricity, air movement and water properties have been at the core of his visual arts practice. His work has been exhibited nationally and...