“The Secret Life of Objects,” an exhibition showcasing artist Robert Cumming’s most notable artwork, opened its doors to Rochester at the Eastman Museum on Friday the 17th. It features photographs, sketches, and paintings inspired by the meeting of geometric Californian architecture and realist urban landscapes.
Guest curator Sarah Bay Gachot gave remarks on the opening night of the exhibit.
Some of Cumming’s most notable works are “Quick Shift of the Head Leaves Glowing Stool Afterimage Posited on the Pedestal” and “Two Views of One Mishap of Minor Consequence” (located in MoMa’s permanent collection).
Both photographs employ unique techniques to portray the moment Cumming hoped to capture. In the former, Negative Gelatin Prints showcase a stool under a unique light, providing it with an untraditional glow; in the latter, hidden wires give the spectator the illusion of stillness in motion.
Cummings used these wires because the technology of his era did not allow for cameras to capture motion in precise seconds.
In an interview, Cumming said he believes his creative photography techniques are not impacted by technological advancements, but rather, they run parallel to the artistic development of photography, and only expand the cadre of tools to encourage creativity in the medium.
Cumming exercises his creativity not only through photography, but also through other forms of artistic expression. One of his favorites is writing 10 letters per day, dedicated to friends and strangers alike. Some other artistic outlets he engaged with were painting and sculpture, from where he draws his ideas on the state of being static and time snapshots.
His career progression can be divided into two main sections: photography to puzzle viewers, and abstract artistic photography.
As Gachot mentioned, Cumming likens his artistic motifs to those of a short wall, saying, “What good is a wall if you can’t see over it?”
Cumming’s work is like a wall where you can see over, introducing artifacts that don’t obstruct the panorama’s view; instead, they complement it by adding aesthetically pleasant elements to it.
Cumming emphasizes that three-dimensional objects are attached to a frame in two dimensions when photographed, so perspective can be easily manipulated.
As Gachot said, “We cannot walk around an object after the shutter is clicked.”
At the exhibition you’ll be able to find most of his best works, walk through the artistic transition he experienced, from mysterious photographic puzzles to abstract paintings with an air of contemporary realism. The price is $5 for students if you show your student ID.
Cumming’s art will be on display Feb. 18-March 28.