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U Department of Art and Art History Presents Photographer Jerry Spagnoli

Untitled (Anatomical Study), 2001, 8 1/2 x 13 1/2, (2 Whole Plate Daguerreotypes)

Oct. 4, 2006 — On Thursday, Oct. 19, the University of Utah Department of Art and Art History will present a free lecture by photographer Jerry Spagnoli, an artist strongly linked to the rediscovery of the antique daguerreotype process. The second of five speakers in the 2006-2007 Carmen Morton Christensen Visiting Artist/Art Historian Lecture Series, Spagnoli will speak from 5 until 6 p.m., in room 158 of the University’s Art Building, located at 375 S. 1530 E., on the University campus.

Working from scratch, Spagnoli reinvented the complex 19th-century technique, which was the first registered photographic device. A direct positive process, the daguerreotype is a unique and highly detailed image captured on a mirror-like, silver-coated copper plate.

The gleaming quality of the image is an important element of Spagnoli’s fascination for the medium. At the same time, Spagnoli’s images are permeated with a distinctly contemporary sensibility. The unsurpassed precision of the daguerreotype becomes the vehicle for questioning photography’s fundamental objectivity, human observation and the way the viewer confronts the surface.

Some of Spagnoli’s work explores the surface by utilizing skin and texture, resulting in daguerreotypes of anatomical details and abstracted life-size gelatin silver prints of bodies in motion. The daguerreotypes’ intense close-ups of hands, eyes, ears, necks, knees and shoulders, result in micro views of human skin. Freckles, wrinkles and pores create a texture of abstract pattern.

In addition, the prints concentrate on the texture or “skin” of the photograph itself. The “photomicrographs” are made by re-photographing a detail isolated on a 35mm negative through a microscope. The subjects, originally photographed from a great distance, occupy a small portion of the negatives, resulting in prints that have a distinctive graininess-a direct consequence of the process that mirrors the representation of the human skin’s very “grain” made visible in the daguerreotypes. The photomicrographs comprise a series of archetypal images that do not refer back to an object in reality, but are in essence a picture of the film itself.

Spagnoli’s mastery of the daguerreotype has led to collaboration with artist Chuck Close. Spagnoli, a native New Yorker, received his art education at the San Francisco Art Institute and currently lives and works in New York City.

Spagnoli’s work is featured in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Getty Museum, the Hallmark Photographic Collection and the Museum of the City of New York. His work is regularly exhibited and has been shown at the Museum of the City of New York, the Boston University Art Gallery and the George Eastman House.

Support for the Visiting Artist/Art Historian Lecture Series is provided by the Carmen Morton Christensen Foundation Endowment. For more information on the upcoming art lectures, contact Professor Kim Martinez, in the Department of Art and Art History, at 801-581-6513.