Page 1


ARCHEOLOGY IN REVERSE

Early California Landscapes 1974–1979

FOR WAGNER, COMING OF AGE AS AN ARTIST IN CALIFORNIA MEANT FACING THE OVER-

whelming history of Western landscape photography. Interested in the landscape of her own time, she deviated from this traditional path, focusing instead on the tangible forces of change: the developing urban sprawl as it branched into, over, and through the land. Focusing on the formal qualities of the overlooked and the banal, Wagner drew upon the expressions of modulated light that abstract and inform space, opening these otherwise mundane views into a cause for reverie and contemplation.

22


Salt Pile I, Hayward, CA

1979 Gelatin silver print 12.25 Ă— 17 in 23


24


Marin Catholic High School

1976 Gelatin silver print 7.5 Ă— 11 in

25


ARCHEOLOGY IN REVERSE

Moscone Site 1978–1981

CONSTRUCTION ON THE MOSCONE CENTER BEGAN IN 1978 AT THE SOUTHERN EDGE OF

San Francisco’s downtown border. Creating a cultural beacon in the industrial neighborhood of South of Market presented an opportunity to consider the shifting boundaries of public space. Photographing the development of the site in hyper-real clarity began an interest in future ruins, or archaeology in reverse. Wagner’s interest in the interstitial poetry of the photograph and what one can learn from the built environment is made clear in Moscone Site.

44


Arch Construction IV

1981 Gelatin silver print 17.5 Ă— 22 in

45


46


Construction Northeastern Wall

1980 Gelatin silver print 17.5 Ă— 22 in

47


ARCHEOLOGY IN REVERSE

1275 Minnesota Street Project 2015–2016

62

FOLLOWING LINES OF CULTURAL TRANSFORMATION, WAGNER WAS INVITED TO DO

encompassing galleries, artist studios, and related nonprofits. While in

some work in May 2015 by the founders of Minnesota Street Project in

residence, Wagner spent time renegotiating the materials and sites of

the industrial Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. In spending

construction. 1275 Minnesota Street followed epistemological questions of

time amid the construction sites, she found opportunities to photograph

the photograph: What is a fabrication for the lens? What is a found object?

and make ephemeral sculptures in the former warehouse space dur-

Sawhorses, window frames, spray painted guides—even these act as build-

ing its renovation into a contemporary, community focused arts venue

ing blocks towards our understanding of archaeological human history.


1275 Minnesota Street I

2015 Archival pigment print 30 Ă— 40 in

63


1275 Minnesota Street II

64

2015 Diptych Archival pigment prints 43 Ă— 114.5 in


65


INVESTIGATION OF PLACE

Louisiana World Exposition 1984

INVITED TO THE LOUISIANA WORLD EXPOSITION IN 1984, WAGNER PHOTOGRAPHED

the intimate details of a space built for escape from one’s surroundings

synchronized swimmers without thinking about the city outside. Focusing

into an exploration of the ephemeral comings together of people. This

on columns, wire-framed alligators, food stands, lighting rigs, and all of

methodical approach to image making allowed for a slowed vision that

the temporary aspects of the exposition, Wagner revealed the curious arti-

scanned the perimeters and questioned how the environment came to be.

ďŹ ce of ephemeral spectacle.

The behind moments and theatrics of the exposition became as important

84

as the experience of letting loose inhibitions in order to view the dance of


Vista from Monorail, Wonderwall, Louisiana World Exposition, New Orleans, LA

1984 Gelatin silver print 17.5 Ă— 22 in

85


86


Louisiana Exhibit Under Construction, Louisiana World Exposition, New Orleans, LA

1984 Gelatin silver print 17.5 Ă— 22 in

87


INVESTIGATION OF PLACE

Realism and Illusion Catherine Wagner Photographs the Disney Theme Parks 1995

THE ARCHITECTURE OF REASSURANCE WAS A PROJECT MADE IN COLLABORATION

with the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA). Initially commissioned

ing a quiet critique through the juxtaposition of escapist environments

by CCA to work with the archives of all four international Disney sites,

with the outside world. Miniature constructed landscapes bristle against

Wagner’s work grew to encompass a larger series of photographic percep-

backgrounds of real traffic and pollution, while cartoonish interiors

tual shifts that focused on complicating the narrative of assurance built

become claustrophobic due to the attening of the picture plane.

into the very structures of Disneyland. Where architecture was used to

96

provide comfort through whimsy and fantasy, Wagner focused on unveil-


Untitled

1995 Chromogenic print 17.33 Ă— 22 in

97


98


Autopia; Tomorrowland, Disneyland, Anaheim, CA

1995 Chromogenic print 17.33 Ă— 22 in

99


INVESTIGATION OF PLACE

American Classroom 1983–1987

110

AFTER RECEIVING A GUGGENHEIM FELLOWSHIP IN 1987, WAGNER FOCUSED HER ATTEN-

intervention. In science classrooms, apple skins are labeled “pricked” or

tion on various educational institutions of the United States. Casting a

“unpricked” so students may observe their preservation or decay. A desk

broad net, she traveled between states to find institutions of learning rang-

is scrawled with unknowable years of marks and carvings. And on a

ing from primary schools to military bases, police academies to private

chalkboard in one classroom the traces of a student are seen: large letters

and public universities. These images evoke philosophical inquiry into

shout with all their might an equally frustrating and exciting catalyst of

what we teach, how we learn, and what kinds of spaces are erected around

inquisition, declaring “I DON’T KNOW!” This not-knowing began a lifelong,

what kinds of information. Though devoid of people, traces allude to their

fundamental interest in the transference of knowledge in Wagner’s work.

Moss Landing Elementary School, Seventh and Eighth Grade Science Classroom, Moss Landing, California

1984 Gelatin silver print 17.5 × 22 in


111


112


Defense Foreign Language Institute, Language Laboratory, Monterey, California

1983 Gelatin silver print 17.5 Ă— 22 in

113


INVESTIGATION OF PLACE

Home and Other Stories 1989–1992

MOVING INTO THE HOME PROVIDED A NEWLY INTIMATE CONTEXT FOR WAGNER’S

the figurines, the groceries we buy—point to a private identity made public

work. Using the camera to capture what could be considered evidential

through the choice to let others in. Here, Wagner offers vignettes by pull-

material of a person’s life, Home and Other Stories crafted a catalogue of

ing back the veil of anonymity built behind our walls. The home as a model

existence. Our homes become our refuge, our sanctuary, and in them we

to explore issues revolving around family, domesticity, isolation, privacy,

formulate our own versions of shrines. Displaying many of the images

comfort and refuge, as well as recurring themes of memory are all part of

from the series as triptychs, a narrative of personhood is explored between

this venture.

objects. What we choose to surround ourselves with—the tables and chairs,

130


Christine T., San Francisco, CA

1990 Single panel of triptych Gelatin silver print 14.25 Ă— 18.25 in 131


Christine T., San Francisco, CA

132

1990 Triptych Gelatin silver prints 14.25 Ă— 54.75 in


133


RE-CLASSIFYING HISTORY

Museum Pieces 1999

THE MUSEUM-CUM-ARCHIVE BECOMES THE SUBJECT IN MUSEUM PIECES. ALWAYS

Transforming what is obvious to the person who uses it for their work into

interested in the tools that we craft in order to catalogue our surround-

a series of lines, colors, and shapes serve to abstract their meaning and

ings, Wagner turned her eye to the ways in which museum handlers and

strip them to their base elements. Similarly, the ledgers become artifacts

archivists systematize their work. By isolating these tools and ledgers,

whose use lies in code, lost to the memory of their creator. Highlighting

the creative gesture and ideals of museum viewership are upended. What

what would otherwise remain unseen, Wagner offers new contexts of

may be a device for holding still fragile objects becomes a quixotic shape.

understanding for institutional structures of support.

Dozens of tools hang in space with illegible tags draped down their spines.

144


Untitled II

145

1999 Chromogenic print 40 Ă— 30 in


146


Ship II

147

1999 Chromogenic print 40 × 70 in


RE-CLASSIFYING HISTORY

Re-Classifying History 2004–2005

TO INAUGURATE THE OPENING OF THE REMODELED DE YOUNG MUSEUM BY HERZOG

and de Meuron, Wagner was asked to create a body of work from the col-

unto themselves waiting to be unveiled. Even chairs by famous designers

lection that remained in storage during construction. Isolating her sub-

or craftsmen that have risen to the level of being institutionally preserved

jects in the midst of a black expanse, she created tableaux that subvert

invoke questions of tiered society when arranged in conversation with one

traditional notions of history. By maintaining the structures of support

another. Some of our most basic tenets rise to the fore when a museum’s

built around statuary for shipment and containment she challenges the

collection is examined from an unusual angle.

creation of a canonical history through her use of fictive narrative. Figures

158

of antiquity shed their patina of accepted truth and become objects, myths


Columbus, Penelope, Delilah

2005 Lambda print 49.5 Ă— 68 in

159


160


Four Perspectives on Christopher Columbus

161

2005 Lambda print 49.5 Ă— 100 in


RE-CLASSIFYING HISTORY

Rome Works 2013–2014

176

WHILE SPENDING A YEAR AT THE AMERICAN ACADEMY IN ROME AS A ROME PRIZE FEL-

depicted by name—women were given generic titles based on their sex.

low from 2013 –2014, Wagner furthered her excavation of Western history

Interventions in the systems of display, repair, or transportation also

through the institutions of Italy. At times built from grand displays of

provide reimagined contexts: A blue support structure wrapped around

nobility, and at others from the extrapolation of fragmentary remains, the

a cast of Artemis pulls her from antiquity into a contemporary sphere.

draw of ancient Rome is undeniable. Concentrating on objects in transi-

Bernini’s angel develops altogether new mystery in its boxed, preserved,

tion, new questions were asked by stripping objects and portraits of their

and secured state. In conversation with the classical, the preservation of

didactic meanings. Crops of marble busts become abstracted landscapes

Rome renegotiated through the contemporary lens offers a confluence of

of stone, but when titles are reintroduced we find that only the men were

time aligned with the most fundamental of Wagner’s questions.


Artemis/Diana

2014 Archival pigment print 37.5 Ă— 50 in

177


178


Angel Encased (Bernini)

2014 Archival pigment print 37.5 Ă— 50 in

179


NEAR ABSTRACTION

Greenhouse Abstractions 1976

ONE OF WAGNER’S FIRST PHOTOGRAPHIC DISCOVERIES CAME IN THE FORM OF A MEDI-

tation on abstraction. Focusing on the details of a greenhouse alight with the brilliant Californian sun, her lens compressed overlapping plastic sheets and netting into glowing fields of light and shadow. This early foray began an investigation into the complexities of contractive and expansive sight through the photographic lens.

198


Greenhouse Abstractions I

1976 Gelatin silver print 6.5 Ă— 9.75 in

199


Greenhouse Abstractions II

200

1976 Gelatin silver print 6.5 Ă— 9.75 in


Greenhouse Abstractions IV

1976 Gelatin silver print 6.5 Ă— 9.75 in

201


NEAR ABSTRACTION

Flux Density 2005

PRESENTED WITH A NEW OPPORTUNITY IN 2005 TO WORK WITHIN THE CONFLUENCE

of art and science, Wagner created a 35 -foot-long light box that blurred the lines of representation and abstraction. While Flux Density is composed of images from the simplest phenomenon—bubbles of air rising up through carbonated liquid—curiosity and wonder are invoked through the tension between clarity and abstraction. Using translucent layers to modulate light as it passes through the liquid, fields of space are collapsed into a singular visual plane creating a sense of the infinite.

206


Flux Density I

2003 Archival pigment print 30 Ă— 40 in 207


Flux Density II

208 2003 Archival pigment print 30 Ă— 40 in


Flux Density III

209

2003 Archival pigment print 30 Ă— 40 in


NEAR ABSTRACTION

Cross Sections 1998–2001

IN 2000 WAGNER WAS AWARDED AN INAUGURAL FELLOWSHIP FROM THE SAN JOSE

212

the differences of image capture from a molecular perspective. Whereas

Museum of Art for an artist to work with technology. Wagner chose to

cameras typically describe the world from its external lines and curves,

work with imaging devices, such as a magnetic resonance image (MRI)

these imaging machines craft their subjects from the inside out compiling

machine and scanning electron microscope (SEM), in order to process

stitched-together cross sections. As scientific imagery grew into cultural

organic materials in a way that upends traditional notions of photography.

vernacular, Wagner initiated a philosophical exploration into the inter-

This alternative approach questions both our expected ways of seeing and

change of art, science, and the visual language of society.

Pomegranate Wall

2001 Lambda Duratrans and ten free-standing curved arc lightboxes 96 × 480 in

San Jose Museum of Art 2001


213


214 Pomegranate Wall

2001 Detail of single panel Lambda Duratrans 96 Ă— 48 in


215


ART & SCIENCE: INVESTIGATING MATTER

Art & Science: Investigating Matter 1993–1995

TRAVELING THE UNITED STATES WORKING ON AMERICAN CLASSROOM SPARKED

clear, perspiring jug with letters written on tape that warn, “Definitely not

Wagner’s interest in the transfer and creation of knowledge. She turned

sterile.” -86° F freezers, opened and covered in ice, contain specimens from

her attention to creating Art & Science: Investigating Matter after reading

some of the most concerning afflictions from HIV to breast cancer and

about the Human Genome Project. The methods and effects of scientific

Alzheimer’s. Beakers, fossils, soil, tubes, wires, cabinets: the architecture

research became her tools for this project, and with them she furthered

of scientific research becomes a model for understanding who we are and

early thoughts on the anthropological nature of laboratory study. The

who we will become.

sterile research environment contains oddities that refute its nature: A

232


Definitely Not Sterile

233

1995 Gelatin silver print 40 Ă— 30 in


234


Drosophila Morgue

235

1994 Gelatin silver print 24 Ă— 20 in


ART & SCIENCE: INVESTIGATING MATTER

History of Science 2003

TURNING HER ATTENTION BACK TOWARDS THE CREATION AND TRANSFER OF KNOWL-

an accelerated timeline wherein the rate of visual growth and representa-

edge, Wagner sought out tools that were used in the education of scientific

tion cannot match the precision of scientific discovery. These images work

material. Finding cabinets of chemical models and magnified sculptures

to bridge the gap between an abstracted public consciousness of the his-

of demonstrative, observable compounds, she explored the anachronism

tory of science and the rapidity of change intrinsic in its pursuit.

inherent in educational evolution. The cutting edge becomes the archaic in

250

Unicorn Center for Art

Beijing, China 2016 Photograph by Phil Bond


251


History of Science II

252 2003 Chromogenic print 60 Ă— 43 in


History of Science III

253

2003 Chromogenic print 60 Ă— 43 in


ART & SCIENCE: INVESTIGATING MATTER

Frankenstein 2003

FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER WAS CREATED BY A HUMAN YET BORN INTO A WORLD

260

electron accelerators and related experiments in high-energy physics and

that unequivocally rejected him. This fantastical beast, thrust into a suf-

synchrotron radiation research. Anthropomorphic in appearance, these

focating reality without will or agency, continually mirrors our own issues

foil-wrapped machines take on monstrous, sympathetic definition when

of social alienation. As Mary Shelley’s novel entered its second century,

isolated from their functional context. As observed by David Bonetti

Wagner examined this paradox of acceptance and rejection through a con-

when considering the ideas brought forth by both Wagner and Shelley,

temporary lens. Finding a visual counterpart in the scientific labs of the

“Frankenstein endures not only because of its infamous horrors, but for the

Stanford Linear Accelerator, Wagner photographed ultra-high vacuum

richness of the ideas it asks us to confront: human accountability, social

chambers used in designing, construction, and operating state-of-the-art

alienation, and the nature of life itself.”


Frankenstein V

261

2003 Archival pigment print 60 Ă— 48 in


262


Frankenstein IV

2003 Archival pigment print 48 Ă— 60 in 263


RECONSIDERING THE ARCHIVE

A Narrative History of the Lightbulb 2006

A NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE LIGHTBULB FOCUSES ON THE INVENTION AND HISTORY

274

fabricated for the express purpose of being photographed, fantastical met-

of the lightbulb as a cultural indicator. This series, created while working

aphors arise out of visual relationships. By subverting our societal connec-

on-site in the collection warehouses of the Baltimore Museum of Industry,

tions to a ubiquitous object, narrative landscapes form through Wagner’s

embodies Wagner’s interest in recontextualizing the function of an archive.

selection and sociological categorization. While some groupings are based

In a temporary studio constructed on site, Wagner uncovered thousands

on scientific indexes, such as “The Lamps of 1900” or “Early Tungsten,”

of bulbs wrapped in newspaper, stored in shoeboxes. Through sculptural

others, such as “Utopia,” reference architectural history and the theoreti-

still lifes created from thematic groupings of lightbulbs that have been

cal notions of perfection.


Energy Efficient Experiment

2006 Lambda print 15 Ă— 24.25 in

275


276


277

Utopia

2006 Lambda print 26.6 Ă— 62.9 in


RECONSIDERING THE ARCHIVE

Reparations 2008

290

ONE CONSTANT RUNS THROUGH TRAGEDY, BE IT GLOBAL OR PERSONAL: THE NEED TO

matrices of modern devices made of plastics and metals. Bygone prosthet-

heal. Sparked by omnipresent images of war and its machinations that

ics for arms and legs become signals of rapid change and technological

drive our culture, Wagner sought out reparative devices that have been

decay, yet the powerful sentiment of rehabilitation remains. Working in

created over the decades. Radical developments in medical structures

concert these corporeal traces speak of larger metaphors of change. In

and the passage of time are emphasized in this project; individual images

Reparations we ďŹ nd the remarkable resilience of both our bodies and our

of crude wooden splints used to bind a broken hand give way to colorful

connected society.


Left Leg

291

2008 LightJet print 40 × 30 in


292


Metal Elbow

293

2008 Pigment print 20 × 16 in


RECONSIDERING THE ARCHIVE

trans/literate 2012–2013

TRANS/LITERATE CONTINUES WAGNER’S INVESTIGATION OF CULTURAL ARCHIVES THAT

use unique systems to transfer knowledge. Each book is broken into macro-

alter the books’ physical dimensionality yet create a sculptural illusion

and micro-abstractions that illuminate the fetishized, tactile, and sensual

through the punched relief. To bring back the loss of the tactile, the title of

experience imbued into the very nature of the object. Viewed at a distance,

each book was punched in braille text, superimposed yet married with its

the diptychs are color fields, revealing only the color of the cover and

printed counterpart.

the white page of an open book printed in braille, which has remained a

306

constant, unchanged language since its invention in 1834. The photographs


The Stranger, Albert Camus

2012 Diptych Archival pigment prints with braille 21.75 Ă— 49.13 in

307


Beloved, Toni Morrison

308

2012 Diptych Archival pigment prints with braille 21.75 Ă— 49.13 in


309

Place, History, and the Archive by Catherine Wagner  

'Place, History, and the Archive' provides a forty-year survey of Catherine Wagner’s photographic work. This is the first volume to contain...

Place, History, and the Archive by Catherine Wagner  

'Place, History, and the Archive' provides a forty-year survey of Catherine Wagner’s photographic work. This is the first volume to contain...