RAY K. METZKER at Laurence Miller Gallery

Image above: © Ray K. Metzker / courtesy of Laurence Miller Gallery

RAY K. METZKER: The Poet of Light

This exhibition at Laurence Miller Gallery features 36 black and white photographs made over five decades tracing the trajectory of Metzker’s fascination with light - in the landscape, the cityscape, and in the darkroom. The result was a body of work without peer in its vision, its experimentation, and its stunning beauty. And of course, the artist’s vision would not be nearly so impactful without the exquisite craft he demonstrated in all his print-making, a craft that is very much in evidence here.

77b075f3512f28c1e1d5639fc0795736Image above: © Ray K. Metzker / courtesy of Laurence Miller Gallery

In 1959, after completing the graduate program at the Institute of Design in Chicago, Metzker set off for Europe to find his own vision.  During this 20-month voyage, Metzker realized that light was his primary subject, and we see this awareness in many of the prints exhibited: in 1960 a close-up of grasses near Bilbao, followed by, in northern Italy, a multiple exposure of triangular shapes of light; the following year, in Marseilles, a woman walks from one shadow to another; and in Frankfurt, his classic view from a bridge of a kayaker silently gliding by.

4bdd9a456af83b565dfad15fcabd53b9Image above: © Ray K. Metzker / courtesy of Laurence Miller Gallery

In 1962, a teaching job brought Metzker to Philadelphia, where he continued to expand his vision and refine his technique.  Again, light played an ever-increasing role, whether in a triangle of paint glowing on darkened pavement, or in the outline of a black Cadillac in a garage.  By 1964, he began constructing images, which he titled ”Composites,” to better express the urban jitteriness he felt, and the exhibition features a small never-before-seen macquette of a grid of 12 contact prints of shapes of light seen between the tops of buildings, as well as a unique work titled In the Depths with seven strips of figures brightly lit and  isolated in shadows.  Twelve Composites were featured in a 1967 solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

3dc24ea353ac7bf43886a2ea0fde8870Image above: © Ray K. Metzker / courtesy of Laurence Miller Gallery

In the 1970’s, Metzker began to alternate between a deeper humanism and his insatiable appetite for formal experimentation. He photographed sun bathers in Atlantic City, including a 1973 humorous view of a man engulfed in a pool of shadow under his umbrella. Returning to Europe in the late 1970’s, he captured a Greek ferry setting sail,  but intertwined it with numerous shadows and empty fields of light to produce the kind of abstractions he explored in the series he entitled Pictus Interruptus.

1d97bb5f0eff24aa1b96be0b10ad6e75Image above: © Ray K. Metzker / courtesy of Laurence Miller Gallery

He returned to the urban stage in the early 1980’s with his series City Whispers, and in the mid-1980’s he turned to landscapes in which light dematerializes branches and leaves, rendering one so softly it looks like fur.  In the 1990’s, not satisfied with just capturing light in the city and landscape, Metzker returned to the darkroom to make camera-less photograms, culminating in one of his last Composites, which he titled Loveletter, from 2007.

Exhibition runs though December 23, 2015

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