Over the years Carl Chiarenza’s photographs have evolved from tightly framed, documentary-style images into a vocabulary of visual abstraction. He achieved this by taking leave of the natural landscape and constructing collages from scrap materials for the purpose of being photographed under a copy stand with a 4×5 view camera.
Chiarenza’s luminous, meticulously crafted black and white photographs remove his subject from the everyday world of color. This allows his images to transcend their specific subject matter and evoke an inner state of consciousness that grapples with his subject matter beyond its external structure. Chiarenza’s spirit of experimentation disrupts customary expectations through his use of everyday materials to visualize their metamorphosis into hauntingly beautiful abstractions that hint at horizons, geological strata, and quixotic figures. His constructed meditative symbols forge a connection between the mind and nature that elicits emotional responses.
This work, often relating to the landscape, dismantles formal media boundaries and permits photography to merge with graphic design, painting and sculpture. Conceptually, Chiarenza’s transformative imagemaking pulls back the photographic cloak to reveal its illusional qualities. In turn, this draws attention to the difference between a photograph and the reality it depicts, reminding us that all photographs are constructed images and not concrete realities.
Ultimately, Chiarenza’s work invites psychological speculation by encouraging us to examine the unconscious and/or the subliminal workings of the mind, thus demonstrating how knowledge about our world and ourselves can be gleaned through a fabricated methodology. Chiarenza is also a photo-historian noted for his acclaimed biography, Aaron Siskind: Pleasures and Terrors (1982).