(edited by) Simon Baker, Emmanuelle De L’Ecotais – Shape of Light: 100 years of Photography and Abstract Art


Tate Publishing, ISBN-13: 978-1849763691, English, 224 pages, 2018, UK

This is the catalogue of an excellent exhibition, held at Tate Modern, historically reconstructing the relationship between abstraction and photography. Organised into four periods, this history of visual abstraction spontaneously compiles also a history of new concepts implemented by distinct techniques. Some examples include: the DIY invention of a ‘vortoscope’ by Alvin Langdon Coburn, the diffused experiments within the camera obscura with the shared practice of ’camera-less photography’, the definition of Generative Photography at the end of 60s by Gottfried Jäger, and the processes involving first science forces (magnetic, atomic) before the current instability of digital, all well documented in the exhibition. Aesthetically, the infinite details of natural or artificial objects, landscapes and textures, as well as techniques involving the pure inscription of forms, and the interpretation of light as an object, are creating an annotated extensive catalogue, defining “abstraction” in multiple ways. And some of the functional physicality of the artworks, needed to produce it, is coupling the frequent absence of recognisable references in its content. The different curators’ essays, beyond enhancing the historical notes, give a proper conceptual trajectory to follow, one after the other, for the respective considered periods, and their research and selection then shines even more.