Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Jon W. Balke... In the Absence of Color

I work downtown in Chicago’s Loop, just steps away from Millennium Park, The Art Institute of Chicago, and The Chicago Cultural Center. Occasionally before classes—or when I just want to clear my head—I’ll walk over the Cultural Center and explore the latest exhibit. Today was one of those days.

The Cultural Center usually presents a number of wonderful exhibitions. One of the exhibitions—currently on exhibit—is a show of brilliantly rich black & white photographs which can be found in the Renaissance Court Gallery. The show titled “In the Absence of Color”, is the work of the self-taught photographer, Jon W. Balke. Balke creates environmental images with a large format camera and develops the prints in his darkroom using the traditional silver gelatin process. Balke’s black & white prints capture the natural world with amazing lighting and force the viewer to explore the elements of texture, line, surface, and pattern. The above image, "Peeling Paint" is one of the more abstract images in the exhibition. Many of the pieces are direct nature studies.

From the materials that I read while in the gallery, Balke studied darkroom techniques with Ansel Adams & John Sexton, and photographic composition with Willard Clay. If you have an opportunity to visit this show, you will not be disappointed. The imagery is really quite wonderful. The show continues through March 21st. The Chicago Cultural Center is located at 78 E. Washington Street in Chicago. You can also review Balke’s work on line at: