Portfolio #1

Portfolio #1
Jerry McMillan (American, 1936-)
Portfolio of 12 sulfide duo-tones from black-and-white photographic prints, Edition of 16, No. 4 
Sheet: 20 x 16 in. each (50.8 x 40.6 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Museum, Anonymous Gift 
Accession Number:
© Jerry McMillan 
Not on View

Jerry McMillan defies easy classification as a photographer, and his work has continually challenged traditional assumptions about the medium. Early in his career, he asked, “Does a photograph need to be flat?” and went on to produce innovative three-dimensional photo-bags and photo-etched aluminum and stainless steel sculptures. His maverick status was recognized early on when the photo historian Peter Bunnell, then curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, included McMillan’s work in the paradigm-shifting exhibition “Photography into Sculpture” in 1971.

Portfolio #1 resulted from another set of questions the artist pondered: Must a photograph record an object, scene or event? Or “could photography produce a pure, camera-made, non-objective abstraction… Could [photography] be concerned with spatial relationships so that the photographic part of a photograph is invisible?” To find out, the artist created geometric forms that appear to rise magically from the surface of brown kraft paper. These setups were lighted to enhance their dimensional effect, and photographed in black and white. The prints were enlarged and then toned using a sulfide duo-tone process to closely match the brown kraft paper originals. The result is a testament to McMillan’s wit and inventiveness—the illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional plane, with little evidence of the creative process.

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