In Sumptuous, Handmade Photographic Prints, Cy DeCosse Celebrates Nature
Drawing from nine of artist-photographer Cy DeCosse’s portfolios, Gallery 270 presents “Cy DeCosse: Nature in Love,” a solo show full of lush, exquisitely crafted photographs of nature’s bounty. Though digital technology does have a place in DeCosse’s process, he harkens back to photography’s early days to make his prints, using techniques that result in more depth, subtlety, and physicality than a digitally produced print could ever have.
DeCosse first fell for photography when he was in Florence on a Fulbright fellowship. He has said that his eye has always been drawn to “the little things that people miss.” Most often, these include fruit, vegetables, and flowers, which he finds at markets in the U.S. and Europe, among other places. Letting the subject of his photographs guide the process he uses to print them, DeCosse works with three principal methods: platinum, in which light-sensitive platinum salts are mixed into the emulsion that coats the paper, resulting in rich black-and-white images that seem almost three-dimensional; gum dichromate, a 19th-century technique that sits between painting and photography and that results in full color, painterly photographs; and photogravure, which crosses printmaking with photography to produce prints based on a photographic negative.
Included in the show are a number of platinum palladium prints, centered upon produce that DeCosse picked up at the Hmong market in Minneapolis, and drawn from his portfolio titled, “The Hmong Market, Minneapolis.” Scallions (2013), for example, features exactly what its title describes. The elongated, plump scallions in this black-and-white photograph stretch from one end to the other of a rough wooden box, their bright white tips fading into the darker grays of their stems. It is as if he presents this photograph not only as a meditation on the beauty of the scallions’ forms, but also as a celebration of the tonal range of the platinum palladium process. In fact, in both its subject and its making, this print seems to exemplify DeCosse’s attitude towards his medium. “If I could state a basic philosophy about photography,” he has said, “I would say that I have no statement to make, nothing political, but I only want to make something interesting to look at.”
“Cy DeCosse: Nature in Love” is on view at Gallery 270, Englewood, Nov. 9, 2015 – Jan. 16, 2016.