Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chemigram to photogravure (for printmakers)

figure 1
(Franco Marinai sends a guest post)

I do my chemigrams on 8x10" high contrast orthochromatic film, not on photo paper, since I will port them to photogravures when I'm finished. I use undiluted Golden varnish, bleach, Dektol, fixer, warm and cold water.  The transparency of the film allows me to reproduce the chemigram on a copper plate and ultimately ink it, wipe it, and print it on a high-pressure press as an intaglio print, thereby giving me the three dimensionality and subtle tactility of an etching.  But I will do this following the more demanding photogravure process, which is best known for the elegance of its continuous tone reproduction and its exceptionally intense blacks.  This will ensure fidelity to the mesmerizing graphic qualities of the chemigrams.

Fig. 1 shows the final rinse of an 8x10" chemigram on orthochromatic film.  I use hard water, rich in magnesium and calcium cations, from the well in the square outside my studio in Serrazzano, Italy.  Serrazzano is a small medieval village on a hilltop 25 miles south-west of Volterra.

figure 2
Here (fig. 2) the transparencies have been cut and masked in preparation for the gelatin exposure in the vacuum frame.  The chemigram of the one on the left was started with immersion in bleach, while the one on the right started with Dektol.

figure 3

After the gelatin has been exposed, transferred to the copper plate, and developed in warm water, the plate is covered with a fine layer of rosin (aquatint) and readied for etching (fig. 3).

figure 4

The plates have been etched for twenty minutes in ferric chloride (fig. 4) and cut to the size of the transparencies (7x10").

figure 5
This is the first proof of the two plates: Side By Side (2013).  Typically I print an edition of six plus an artist's proof.  Here are a few more photogravures, all printed from individual plates and produced using the same technique.

Marinai, They Do Not Think The Same, 2013

Marinai, Comics, 2013
I can be reached through my website,, or you can post comments below.  For a detailed discussion of the photogravure process, visit Lothar Osterburg's site.

                                                                                                                       - Franco Marinai

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Chemigrams in Prague and Brooklyn

Collins, Colorchart, 2012
If you were in Prague this fall and found yourself along the embankment called Smetanovo Nabrezi near the Charles Bridge, you could have taken a moment to drop in to the Hollar Gallery to see the New York printmakers show, which ran from Sept 18 to Oct 13 2013.  One of the works on display was a chemigram, Colorchart (2012) by Douglas Collins.  While there are many different ways to make a chemigram, this work is a good place to start in trying to understand some of the standard chemigram methods and strategems, as least as practiced by myself, a few but not all of my colleagues, and a number of my students.

The pictoral space here is organized as a grid, for simplicity - not a requirement but that's just how I often work.  My goal was to generate a random sequence of colors by allowing the chemistry in my trays, fixer and developer, to chip away at the tiny silver halide grains in the emulsion, changing the ways these grains refract light and thus selecting for certain wavelengths.  Since I knew we were going to generate an array of colors (geeky is good, but for a refresher look up the Mie effect on your own: it would take us too far afield in this post), what better way to think of it than as a color chart?  We're half way done.

The photographic paper I chose was Ilford FB warmtone and I coated it with MSA varnish by Golden - undiluted in this case, although dilutions are certainly permitted and can lead to different results.  (Actually everything is permitted but that too is another, quite wonderful, story.)  Once dry I incised in it a set of boxes, using a small blade, taking care not to go through the paper and prematurely end with tatters.  These boxes would become my color swatches in the finished work.

Next I proceeded with the 'dance of the trays', passing the prepared paper from developer to fixer to wash and back again - and again and again.  Did I say that all this can be done in daylight?  The basic chemigram method does not demand darkness, it's only in hybrid practices involving stencils, drawings or photo negatives that you may need to work under safelight, or in pursuing solarization effects or other variants; Christina Z. Anderson's book is a useful review of these methods.

After a certain time, when you start to think you screwed up and nothing's going to happen, things do happen.  Bits of varnish start to lift, at corners usually.  After a few minutes more will lift.  You can intervene here with a pair of tweezers and pull the rest off - or you can leave it to desquamate on its own.  If you decide to let the sections of varnish shed by themselves you will soon receive a bonus: the loose ends of varnish, flopping around on their tethers, generate a wispy color of their own, a kind of imprint of their brief existence.  That accounts for the strange outlines around some of the boxes in Colorchart and adds to the overall character of the work, a lyricism maybe, I'm trying to be modest.

Finally, when you feel the colors are right you plunge the paper, not without trepidation, into fixer for a last time, but be attentive here because the fixer may squelch everything, all the vibrancy you thought you had: some bypass this step and go directly to a long wash.  (See the post on Jeff Robinson, January 2011.)  Then you dry and you're done.

Nikolova, untitled, 2013
A very different way to make chemigrams is by using the so-called soft resists, materials that disintegrate or lift off almost immediately.  Eva Nikolova makes surprising use of some of them found in the local delis of her uptown Manhattan neighborhood, and in doing so has extended the expressivity of chemigrams in unforeseen directions.  "I draw," she says, "mostly with peanut butter and guava paste (a Dominican favorite), using pieces of mat board and credit cards, alongside the customary sticks and Q-tips.  The guava paste behaves exactly like honey except it has a stiff granular texture and doesn't spread, so it's easy to control.  What you are seeing is just the interplay of simple additive and subtractive drawing transformed by the chemical process."

I have to stop here: this is too astonishing.  To build the ruined cities that continue to haunt her, these fragments torn from dreams - go see the rest of her work on her website - with the most humble and ruined of tools gives the whole enterprise an unexpected pathos.  It is consummately eloquent.  It makes one think of Piranesi's Imaginary Prisons or maybe one's own nightmares, and yet it's a chemigram.

Piranesi, from Imaginary Prisons, 1761

Eva is showing some of her new work at the New York Foundation for the Arts, 20 Jay St, Dumbo, Brooklyn, until Jan 17 2014.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The medium and the message

Turnbull, Untitled, 2013

On returning to the Manhattan Graphics Center darkroom in New York after the standard summer wanderings and inner retreats, I did what I usually do after an enforced absence: inventory the mysterious bottles and containers that have accreted on the darkroom shelves since Doug Collins and I first began our chemigram investigations (2010 for me, I think 2009 for Doug) and wonder what on earth some of this stuff is and what it does. In the Endless Quest for Usable Resists, Doug and I have sampled many varnishes, gel media, glues, honeys and Ominous Gloppy Substances and eventually limited ourselves by process of elimination to those potential resists that offered the possibility of hard lines and at least some control over the results (though as always with chemigrams, control is never absolute and quite often not desired). Many substances did not pass the test and were left to rest peacefully in their containers at the back of the shelf until the Elder Days end and Them That Were Here Before Us return to rule what was once theirs.

One of our early experiments, probably suggested by Nolan Preece, was a bottle of Pledge Floor Care Tile and Vinyl Floor Finish with Future Shine, a mouthful of a floor care product that in Nolan's capable and practiced hands produced some fine and intriguing results. Our bottle of Pledge Etc. has sat mostly unmolested for over a year and a half now, since neither Doug nor I was able to make much sense or use of it. After meeting Nolan and seeing some of his Pledge-work first hand earlier this summer (several accounts of the World Congress of Chemigramists can be found in posts below), I felt the urge to return to this hitherto misunderstood material, but this time I had the assistance of e-mailed instructions from Nolan himself, who outlined several important considerations. Nolan suggested spreading a thin coat of the material on the surface of a taped down piece of photo paper with a foam brush, then applying textured objects to the surface and weighing them down while the Pledge dries (about ten minutes). After this, remove the textured objects and blow dry the paper's surface for 5-10 minutes. Process as you would any chemigram. The image above was processed in just this manner; I used a piece of crumpled paper towel as a textural surface. Nolan warned me that things happen fast in the developer and fixer, and indeed it seems like Pledge Etc. acts more like a soft resist than a hard resist and that to preserve white areas the chemigram is best first dipped into fixer for a few seconds (but not too long, or you won't get much in the way of darks once you move on to developer).

Turnbull, Untitled, 2013

This next image was processed on the same evening as the Pledge experiments but this time I applied a coat of Windsor and Newton Acrylic Gloss Medium (also orphaned on our darkroom shelf), a thin, milky medium that I used undiluted. It dried in about half an hour, with the help of our faithful darkroom blow dryer. I drew a quick freehand grid on the surface of the dry medium with an Xacto knife and processed in the same way as the Pledge image, i.e. a few seconds in fixer, then developer until the "desired results" were achieved, then back to fixer and then a water wash. What's interesting here is the way the developer attacked the carved lines and produced small visual eruptions along the lines, as well as the mottled areas of color that formed between the lines themselves. The paper here, as in the Pledge image, is an RC paper called VC Select. I'm assuming that the RC paper is responsible for the muted though elegant palette in both these chemigrams, and that FB papers would show a greater and brighter range of colors.

I certainly wouldn't claim either of these chemigrams as anything more than an experiment, but they were important in their own way. Many of us find particular resists and working methods that produce results we enjoy and admire, and I think we often tend to work within fairly narrowly defined boundaries. Here's a case where I went back to two materials long abandoned (for reasons neither Doug nor I can remember clearly, other than at the time they "didn't work") and discovered a kind of fresh potential. I look forward to revisiting other early "failures" and finding out what other potentials I may have overlooked.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A treat for the dog days

Preece, Chemigram Texturology, 2013
It's the end of summer, the dog days they call it, but here on the Monterey Peninsula these are glorious days, hardly a cloud in the sky, perfect temperatures for humans on earth.  The sea churns on the rocks at Point Lobos as always, and if you peek through the pines you can just catch sight of whiskered sea otters bobbing in the waves beneath the cliffs, sometimes joined, incongruously - but there is so much of that it seems natural - by a seal or a kayaker.  Further inland in the mountains where I live, the red-tailed hawks glide on the afternoon thermals in the canyons, their magnified silhouettes skittering darkly over chaparral.  At sunset a great horned owl appears and below, a bobcat or a skunk slink about to claim the meadow where earlier had grazed deer and turkey.  My neighbor Mike has called his goats to their pen and his chickens to their coop.  Soon the first evening stars will appear but it's not toward Pegasus in the east that I'll be drawn tonight - that's easy pickins - but to Arcturus and Spica low in the west, where with luck I'll see not only Saturn but Venus too, goddess of love, the bright queen of the sky of the Babylonians.  She'll be low on the horizon so for that I'll have to climb the ridge.  Dog days indeed.

Yet this will ease my conscience at not doing any cameraless photography this month, and I will not hide my excuse: the bees have established a hive in the old shed where I keep my workbench and I am prevented.  I think I should go down the valley to visit Bobby Bashir or Jeff Robinson to fire my enthusiasm and remind me of what I miss.  Or Martha Casanave, who met me at the Portola the other day when we talked about her new book, Trajectories, which continues, in the months I've had it, to leave me with an uncanny tang of absence (strangely biting and attractive if I can speak like that), the absence of others and of ends to stories.  An aching, extremely beautiful book.

And then a gift arrived from Nolan Preece, a new chemigram.  Here it is, up above.  "Eee-gads!" cried Martha.  It's a sort of cavalcade of his own favorite chemigrams from recent years, woven into an elegant grid of chemigramic portals.  The whole affair seems destined to open a new chapter in what a chemigram is and can be.  We'll get the details from Nolan another time.  For now enjoy, it's the end of summer.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Pierre Cordier & Gundi Falk at Von Lintel

Cordier & Falk, CH 17/9/11 Pair-Impair, 2011

Pierre Cordier and Gundi Falk have been collaborating in Brussels on new chemigrams for nearly two years, and now are presenting a selection of them in the group show called Unique, at the Von Lintel Gallery in New York until July 12, 2013.  In keeping with the theme, all the works exhibited are one-of-a-kind - there is no editioning here, no labels saying archival pigment print.  Whether that is a good thing or not is debatable, but one thing is certain: it serves to keep prices high and the collectors' interest still higher.  Indeed, the two Cordier-Falk pieces in the main room were sold to a major midwestern collector before the show even opened.

 Cordier & Falk, CH 20/9/11 Impair-Pair, 2011

What can we say about these new chemigrams?  That they harken back to the best, most vigorous Cordier style of grid-based work of 30 or 40 years ago?  This is true.  He is a master and a master is entitled.  But there are other rewards.  If you look closely (and what chemigram doesn't demand that?) you will see the delicate nuances and sly choices that gives his work its special character and make it vibrant and seem so very new.  When to stop a bubble from growing?  What shape must a line have?  How many squares are enough?  Momentous questions that lead to the meaning of art perhaps.  One also feels a muted, defining presence of Falk in this but it is hard to be more specific; how these two coordinate responsibilities reportedly varies from project to project and yet, to my eyes, appears seamless.

Cordier & Falk, CH 27/4/13 Musigramme contemporain, 2013
Cordier & Falk, CH 9/11/12 Musigramme contemporain, 2012
It's an important show to catch for the chance to see the Cordier-Falk collaborations, really for the first time in America.  Let us hope there will be more.
Pierre and Gundi taking a rest on 23rd Street, 2013

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Discovering new (old) papers: Luminos

fig. 1 Charcoal R

To a darkroom maven, there's nothing like discovering a paper you've never used before and which, as sort of a gift from the photographic gods, displays qualities both unexpected and lovely.  One such for us recently has been Luminos, particularly the Charcoal R and the Tapestry X.  It began when my friend Lou Spitalnick let us have some of his old stock from the house he keeps at the end of Long Island.  "Go ahead, take what you want," he said.  Was his smile a knowing one?

We did.  Rich Turnbull was first to have at it and created the Charcoal R images in figures 1 and 2.  It turns out it's a warm-tone, fiber-base paper, probably a chlorobromide emulsion, but that's not what stands out.  First, it's the texture.  Charcoal R has a rough texture, rather similar to certain varieties of printmaking paper.  You pass your fingers over it and they tingle: the surface speaks.  But the paper's architecture has another secret, and that is that the emulsion seems to be buried deep within it, not at the surface.  Did the Luminos people plan on an unsized, highly absorbent paper, like a waterleaf paper?  That seems to be the case, because the images you get from it have a hazy, muted cast, as if they were peeking out shyly from a forest of paper fibers.  In the case of colors, this produces a whole range of tones and qualities new to our experience.

fig. 2 Charcoal R
fig. 3 Tapestry X
Tapestry X has the same formulation, with the difference that the paper has been given a more pronounced, canvas-like feel, an artsy effect popular in the years after WWII - witness now forgotten names like Wellington Art Canvas, Velour Black, Athena Old Master, etc.  Note the grain of the texture.  The problem with using this paper for chemigrams however is this, that it's so unsized your varnish resist just sinks in and apparently cannot form a tight varnish-emulsion bond, essential for the elaboration of incisions and mackie lines.  Its beauty is its curse.  One solution is to apply multiple coats of varnish, letting each dry in turn, so that you build up a scaffold of varnish material to work with.  Without this the varnish won't adhere to the emulsion; you'll get scumbling and lifeless incisions, as seen in figure 4.  (Some may actually favor this, of course!)

fig. 4 Tapestry X

Luminos production began in 1947 and was discontinued in 2005, probably under the onslaught of the 'digital revolution' although their press releases at the time spoke of paper supply issues.  Luckily, the papers are still available online.  Or, if you have more time than we have, you can make your own, mixing potassium and silver salts with gelatin and a paper of your choice, with details on the internet.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Chemigram summit in New York

It was Sunday night June 2, and we were five flights above West 40th Street, more than a dozen of us gathered from three continents, practitioners of the subtle art of the chemigram.  The elevator had broken and you had to climb up a sinister, badly lit stairwell, but no matter: Pierre Cordier was here on a rare visit to New York, holding forth, making pronouncements, examining work brought before him like so many offerings.  Others will summarize and analyze the evening, there is time for that, and substance aplenty to animate future discussions.  At the outset, the simple fact of his presence (as though mythic) was enough to dazzle and beguile us, while as the evening wore on his spirited banter put us more at ease and each of us were allowed privately to wonder at how fortunate we were, all of us, to be together.  It was indeed an historic moment, sixty-one years after Cordier's invention.

Pictured above L to R are Matt Higgins, Eva Nikolova, Paul Kleinman, Gundi Falk, Douglas Collins, Pierre Cordier, Jett Ulaner Sarachek, Nolan Preece, Franco Marinai, Norm Sarachek, and Richard Turnbull.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What is Matt Higgins doing?

Higgins, untitled, 2012

Matt Higgins is an Australian who eats, sleeps, and dreams chemigrams.  At the Australian National University he's deep into writing a thesis called Chemical Potential: A Darkroom Upside Down.  You'll want to urge your local bookseller to stock it.  He speaks of the joy and madness of doing everything wrong, of committing crimes against paper, abusing it, mocking it, and in the process making images that push hard against the boundaries of what can ultimately be done with photography.  He should probably be locked up he's so bad.  Until then let us enjoy the pictures he's able to give us.

What you see above is done using one of his favorite tools, acrylic gloss from a spray can.  He covers his paper, then plunges it into chemistry according to a certain timing - timing is everything in chemigrams - and goes on from there, making a terrific mess before it quietly acquiesces and turns beautiful.  Another favorite is a gunk called apple stroop, sort of an apple syrup, which if used right can yield works like this one:

Higgins, untitled, 2012

which is made something like this:

where you can see the pot of syrup at the bottom, and the recent lines of attack at the four sides.  Higgins seems to be evolving rapidly : it was barely a year ago that he was making the classic chiseled-square or checkerboard pictures that appeared in Christina Anderson's book, but those days are far behind.  One technique that thankfully hasn't been dropped from his arsenal is the loose acrylic approach, with which he effortlessly produces pictures like this:

How can you not like it?

Higgins, untitled, 2012

He lives in Canberra, where since the age of 10 he has had a relationship, possibly illicit, with another Canberra resident, Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles at the Australian National Gallery.  These are frothy waters to be swimming in.  Matt Higgins is handling it, and not ready to come ashore.

Pollock, Blue Poles, 1952

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cordier in San Francisco

Cordier, 21/4/72 I  after a computer drawing of Manfred Mohr, 1972
The Haines Gallery of San Francisco has mounted a geometry-flavored show entitled "Poetics of Construction" featuring Pierre Cordier, Ai Weiwei, Andy Goldsworthy, and the amazing Monir Farmanfarmaian, among others.  The objects in this show - and most are indeed objects, with a sculptural physicality evident or implicit - have a brooding presence and seem to rest comfortably, even authoritatively, in their appointed space.  Cordier's chemigrams from 1972 fit in nicely with this concept.  Back then, he had just begun to collaborate with Manfred Mohr, the computer art pioneer, who was fresh from exhibiting his first computer-plotted drawings at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris.  For Cordier, this was to mark the beginning of a 20-year preoccupation with grids, graphs, and glyphs in some of their more austere forms, mollified perhaps by the chemigramic filter; only since the millenium has the hold of this spell on him begun to ease.  The works shown at the Haines reflect the early stages of that collaboration.

Cordier, 22/4/72 I  after a computer drawing of Manfred Mohr, 1972

The titles refer to the dates of execution and are written in Romance-language style with day, month, year in that order.  So that these two pictures were done on Friday and Saturday, the 21st and 22nd of April 1972.  Why are these dates interesting?

On that very Friday, while Cordier was bent over his darkroom trays, the Apollo 16 spaceship landed on the moon, in an unexplored region called the Descartes Highlands.  Astronauts climbed out, stumbled around in that strange gravity, collected rock samples, took snapshots of each other, saluted the earth and climbed back in.  Cordier was just finishing the first picture.  The following day - Saturday - one of the largest housing projects in America was intentionally demolished by the government because the tenants refused to live in it any longer: they had said they were treated like rats and it was intolerable.  That was Pruitt Igoe, in St Louis, and the documenting of its demolition, which was unprecedented, became one of the iconic moments in the film Koyaanisqatsi (Life Out Of Joint, in the Hopi language) by Godfrey Reggio and Philip Glass.  Cordier meanwhile was just completing the second.  In the brief space of a day, a monstrous tension between life as it is and life as it might have to be, or become.  In my mind this tension drifts over and envelopes Cordier in his studio, he unaware yet somehow understanding.  His marks are faint but made with a firm and serene hand, his voice no more than a whisper, I see his lips barely moving.  He has been given to record the allegory.  I exagerate but then I do not.

Apollo 16, Moon, near the Descartes Crater, 1972

Pruitt Igoe, St Louis, 1972

The Cordier works on display are c-prints from the chemigram original, printed in editions of 12.  The show runs until March 9, 2013.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Images from sound files: new prints from Arnold Brooks

Brooks, untitled, 2012, 30 x 30"
That the senses are interconnected is not a fresh insight.  Kandinsky was dreaming of it back in 1913, at the birth of abstraction, and Rimbaud, with his derangement of the senses, had thought of it before him: once pure sound was divorced from scales, instruments, hymnals, it could become a tool of the modern artist, like the colors of the palette.  You could hear a piece by Stravinsky and then go to your studio and paint it, if your senses allowed for that.  Yet the problem in pictures was this, that for a thousand years we had thought not about time, the matrix that sound lives in, but about space.  Yes there were correspondences: we could depict sound as color if we were so inclined, we could even convince the public of that, but to find a depiction of sound as time was another matter altogether.  Space, capacious and accommodating, was for putting things into, like kings and queens, sun-washed cities, dwarfs, groupings of fruit on a table, naked bathers.  It had a physical reality you could touch.  You could put things there and they stayed there; you could return to look at them later.  Not so with time: you put something there and it was as good as lost, because time flowed, it was never the same again.  That B-flat chord on the piano - gone.  That Verdi aria - gone.

Kandinsky, A Few Circles, 1926
Toward the end of the last century, because of technology, this began to change.  Devices had been invented which preserved time as physical marks or tracks, as successions of instants, that could be played back - first the phonograph, then cinema, then tape recorders.  Later, the development of the computer and concomitant inventions in mathematics and signal processing ushered in definitive changes for the storing of sound, namely its digitization as strings of 0s and 1s.  You could write code on a piece of paper, feed it to a machine, and a string quartet would play.  What's more, with just a few different assumptions, you could make that same string of code produce a picture.

This is where Arnold Brooks, printmaker, sound artist, filmmaker, enters the scene.  When Arnold, quite by accident, first opened up a sound file in photoshop, the computer imaging editor, he was dumbstruck: here was an image that resembled a seascape or a desert, or the lovely meandering grain that you see in wood - but it was a representation of sound.  What relation was there?  Were certain shapes selected by the computer code?  What forces were at work to render these forms?  He pursued his investigations, terming the images of sound files 'transpositions'.  He found he could reverse the process; he could edit the sound to make other transpositions, or edit the transposition to make other sounds.  His original feelings of deep wonder never ceased.  As he says, "The static image and the time-based piece are literally the same file; in their native environment the files are one.  The transposed file can be manifested simultaneously in two different states while in the computer and is still the exact same file."  And what should we call this manifestation?  Well, if we listen to it it's sound and if we look at it it's a picture - nothing's changed there.  But incredibly, the two are made distinct by a process external to the event: a few mere symbols, more or less, in the computer code, or by running the same code through different codecs or software or ASCII editors.

Arnold is not happy with his transpositions.  He finds them "moribund" because their soul - sound - has been torn out of them.  They are lifeless, he says, they don't ring.  It was with great reluctance then that he showed several at Manhattan Graphics recently as sort of a research in progress, including the image above.  He wasn't ready for the overwhelming enthusiastic reaction he got from fellow artists, which must have surprised and caught him off guard: his transpositions were being compared to some of the outstanding works in the minimalist canon.  Still, if you ask him what really matters he'll say that's pretty hard, because that's asking how shapes are made. 

Arnold Brooks' email is

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The great tangent of Nino Migliori

(Franco Marinai, the New York-based photographer and printmaker, has written a guest post.  We are happy to make the space available to him.)

Migliori, oxidization, 1948

It's 1948 - a momentous year - and the world is reeling from the disasters of WWII.  The future is uncertain but in the relative obscurity of a darkroom in central Italy, a young photographer boldly sets off in two seemingly different directions: realism and experimentation.

As a neorealist photographer he would document Italy's transition from an agricultural to an industrial society with B&W essays that gained him considerable notoriety.

As an experimenter he would turn out to be a dedicated and steadfast destroyer of photographic conventions.  Over the years he oxidized, cut, wrecked, scratched, burnt, and otherwise abused film, photographic paper, polaroids, and cliché-verres alike.  This landed him squarely in the Italian pantheon of the photographic avant-garde (informal wing).

Migliori, oxidization, 1954

That the two practices could live together shouldn't be a surprise.  It's certainly not a case of split personality.  They are rather two aspects of the desire to get to the bottom of things, to get concrete, in other words to visualize reality, whether it has to do with some kids in the streets of Naples or with some unorthodox chemical reaction on photographic paper.

Nino Migliori started off his informal journey producing "oxidizations" - abstract images obtained off-camera by plying photographic paper with fixer and developer.  They have an uncanny kinship with what later - in 1956 - would be called a "chemigram" by Pierre Cordier, its legitimate father.

The interplanetary alignment ends there.

Migliori, oxidization, 1954

Nino Migliori kept on a tangent - so to speak - to produce "pyrograms", "watergrams", "celluloid-grams", "photograms", "cliché-verres" and much more.  It's a large and varied body of work that speaks loud for Migliori's unrelenting enthusiasm and voracious curiosity.  In fact, the gist of his experimental work seems more about unrestricted dabbling than anything else.  And this may be its strength.  But given the volume and the nature of the images housed in innumerable museums and private collections in Europe and the US, one wonders whether he had any rejects.  Did he discard any?  And this may be another of Nino Migliori's strengths.

                                                                                                 -  Franco Marinai