By Aimee Lusty
Evan Whale’s solo-exhibition I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder, on view at 321 Gallery through November 5th, unites documentary photography and experimental mark-making with the science of seismography. The exhibition showcases thirteen works created by digital and analog photographic processes manipulated with hand-painted elements and chemical interventions informed by seismic activity and geological surveys along the White Wolf Fault line in California.
The artist’s process begins with a hike along the White Wolf Fault line just outside of Bakersfield on national forest land. The location is infamous for the record breaking Kern County Earthquake in 1952. During his hike Evan documents predominant forms and alluring features in the landscape: a field of wildflowers, lichen covered rock formations, the Oak Flat Monitoring Station, and the sunset overlooking the fault line. The photographs act as field notes (as they are aptly titled), fodder, and sketches for the final multi-media pieces.
Back in the studio the artist uses data provided by the United States Geological Survey to research seismic activity correlating to the locations and times each photograph was taken. Whale then draws the seismograms by hand onto chromogenic prints using a variety of experimental mark-making. He uses fine multi-edged tools to create long repetitive detailed lines and heavier painterly marks. The process is subtractive and abrasive, drawing into the emulsion by the action of reduction.
The hand rendered seismograms inform and compliment the documentary photography in an amalgam of disparate media. The works are a way to reflect and cope with the artist’s interest and fear of abnormal seismic activity after experiencing an earthquake in 2011. Whale developed an interest in how each region had its own signature marks and patterns. By transferring this seismic signature onto photographs of the area, the final pieces become a narrative way to visualize the data, making the information more accessible and approachable to a larger audience.
Inspired by the intrinsic qualities of the seismograms themselves—the peaks and valleys—the artist borrows these forms as blueprints for the drawn elements. The act of hand rendering the seismograms can be interpreted as an alternate way to cope with or control the activity it is depicting. Other works include abstract and conceptual memorials to the aftershock of the 1952 earthquake. These works are less representational and employ light and chemical alterations as additional tools for mark-marking.
Evan Whale’s solo-exhibition “I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder,” will run through November 5th. 321 Gallery is an artist-run gallery in Clinton Hill, located on the ground floor of 321 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. Gallery hours are Saturdays 12 - 5pm. For more information visit www.321gallery.org.