The Photographic Subject Gone AWOL: Bonnie Edelman’s Abstract Images

At its most basic, photography points at something in time and asks the viewer to look. This is clearly demonstrated in certain genres like still-life photography and photojournalism, but abstract photography complicates this notion. Bonnie Edelman’s photographs contain no sense of time, and rather than asking us to look at something, her images ask us to imagine what might be there. The title of her most recent exhibition, “AWOL,” an acronym with military origins meaning “Absent Without Official Leave,” could relate to her tendency to travel the world for her photographs, as well as the absence of representation in her work.

Through Edelman’s lens, skies, landscapes, and seascapes that were once recognizable, become nonrepresentational images. The transformation that takes place in her works is evident, but only in an ambient way. A lingering imprint of the subject can still be felt, but there’s no way to trace the image back to its origins. Our only clue to what the images represent is in the titles of her works, like Moroccan Skies (2012), which gives the impression of a sunset in striations of blue and orange or Lavender Weeds, Sweden (2014), a linear blur of yellows, purples and greens. There’s also the suggestion of figure in some works, like the shadowy outlines of something human in Blue Medina (2012) or the nebulous blue form in Visits Below, T&C (2012).

Edelman’s photographs are similar to color field paintings, inviting us to meditate on them and absorb their colors. They also act as abstract postcards from places around the world: Gartow Field (2009) ostensibly shows a field in the city of Gartow in Germany, Forte dei Marmi (2010) is a swipe of russet reds and browns in Northern Italy, and Spanish Skies (2012), presents layers of pulsing blue, captured in Spain, resembling a horizon seen from space. 

—Makiko Wholey

Bonnie Edelman: AWOL” is on view at Heather Gaudio Fine Art, New Canaan, Connecticut, through Oct. 21st, 2014.

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