American, b. 1971
Lives and works in Pacifica, California
Chris McCaw’s artistic practice is firmly rooted in the history of photography while simultaneously pushing the medium in new directions. His experimental process recalls the work of photography pioneer, Henry Fox Talbot, combined with the slash and burn paintings of Lucio Fontana. McCaw has taken this notion of simultaneous creation / destruction and harnessed the resulting tension, working with the unpredictable process so elegantly that he manages a polished and highly crafted style but one which remains dependent upon the brute and visceral contribution of chance and light and the spin of the earth.
In McCaw’s iconic Sunburn series, the lenses in the artist’s handmade cameras function as magnifying glasses, allowing the sun to literally burn its path across light sensitive negatives that are often solarized—a natural reversal of tonality through over-exposure—in the process. The subject of the photograph (the sun) disrupts the idea that a photograph is simply a representation of reality—instead becoming a physical embodiment of the earth’s movement and the passage of time. In his photographs the horizon line becomes the site on which our own celestial movements are mapped, connecting the viewer to the larger cycles of astronomical time and planetary motion. His recent Poly-optic and Heliograph series (both 2012-present) make use of multiple lenses or exposures to explore the mark-making possibilities of his practice as it shades into abstraction.
McCaw’s work has been exhibited at institutions including the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA; Phoenix Art Museum, AZ; Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, NY; George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Somerset House, London, UK. McCaw received the Emerging Icon in Photography award from the George Eastman House. His work is in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Chrysler Art Museum, Norfolk, VA; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK; George Eastman House; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA; and many private collections.