James Welling has been questioning the norms of representation since the 1970s. His work centers on an exploration of photography, shuffling the elemental components of the medium to produce a distinctly uncompromising body of work. Welling is also intensely interested in cultural and personal ideas of memory in his work. In opening up the medium of photography for experimentation, James Welling's practice has influenced an entire generation of artists and photographers.
Welling was born in 1951 in Hartford, Connecticut. He received his B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. Since 2005, his work has been represented by David Zwirner. In 2012, James Welling: Overflow marked his fifth solo show at the gallery in New York.
In 2013, a major survey, James Welling: Monograph, was organized by the Cincinnati Art Museum in Ohio and accompanied by a large-scale catalogue published by Aperture. The exhibition traveled to the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Also on view in 2013 was James Welling: Autograph, a comprehensive overview presented at the Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland. In 2012, James Welling: The Mind on Fire opened at the MK Gallery in Milton Keynes, England, which explored the origin and development of Welling’s abstract photographs from the 1980s. The show traveled to the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea in Santiago de Compostela, Spain and the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver.
Welling’s work has been exhibited widely in the United States and internationally, including solo exhibitions at the University Museum of Contemporary Art, UMASS Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts (2013); Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut (2012); Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota (2010); Horticultural Society of New York (2007); Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels; Art Gallery of York University, Toronto (both 2002); Sprengel Museum Hannover (1999); Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; and the Kunstmuseum Luzern, Lucerne, Switzerland (both 1998). In 2000, the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio organized a major survey of his work, which traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Baltimore Museum of Art.
In 2009, Welling's work was featured in the critically acclaimed historical survey, The Pictures Generation, 1974-1984, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and in 2008, he participated in the Whitney Biennial. In 1992, his work was included in documenta IX.
In 2014, Welling was named one of the recipients of the prestigious Infinity Award given by the International Center of Photography, New York. He has held various teaching positions at prominent universities since 1995, including Area Head of Photography at UCLA and Visiting Professor of Photography at Princeton.
The artist's work work is held in major museum collections, including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. He lives and works in Los Angeles.
James Welling lectures on “The Perception of Andrew Wyeth: Birds, Wind, Water” as part of Andrew Wyeth in Context: Contemporary Art and Scholarship at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC