Just Peace, undated
Materials: Digital photo collage, archival print on aluminum, 36” diameter.
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, fourth floor hallway, outside patient rooms H4-113 and H4-114.
This collage of black-and-white photographs by Christopher Felver imposes a rectilinear grid over the circular format of the (aluminum) ground and fills that grid with some of his favorite images. Printing on aluminum gives the resulting work luminescence, and the metal has a heft that requires no frame, so the image is right up in the viewer’s face. Many of these re-appear throughout his body of work: close-up views of rusting hardware, window shapes and sequences, hallways, signs, details of texture and contour on bodies, drain covers … . His choices reflect a kind of democracy of things: Almost anything we look at closely enough turns out to have something visually interesting about it. Felver’s choice of black and white photography begins to abstract these moments from the world around us and invites us to attend to them as more as form than as familiar (or less familiar) objects.
The artist’s formal repertory consists of ellipses, radial patterns, converging lines, and combinations of horizontal and vertical. Most of the work of each photo – choosing, composing, setting light exposures – happens before he snaps the shutter, so those activities can be clues to what he is thinking. Then he formats the images, selecting an overall unit with the right proportions, and arranges the resulting photo-units for contrasts and continuities before printing on the ground. Of course, we’re immediately drawn to those two bold words, “JUST” and “PEACE”, and we want to make meaning from them, but how? That “JUST” is key: Is it an adjective derived from “justice”, so “A Just Peace” as in peace with justice? Or does it delimit peace, as in “only/at least, [give us] peace!” The artist wants us to grapple with this ambiguity and, perhaps, decide within the context of the images he supplies.
At the same time, the notion of peace proclaimed in this work was a feature that recommended it to the curatorial committee for acquisition and location in the fourth floor area for new mothers and their babies. As these images come from Felver’s Ordered World book, it is hoped that its gridded multiplicity imparts a sense of order to new families who may encounter the work in this space.
Born and raised in Akron, Christopher Felver describes himself as a cultural documentarian. He lives in California and works as a photographer, videographer, and filmmaker, creating portraits of artists, writers, filmmakers, and poets. He earned a B.A. in history from the University of Miami and studied filmmaking and cinematography in London and California. From 1987 to 1989, he was a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome, where he made a documentary about the city, Taken by the Romans (1990). He has lectured across the U.S. and around the world and, in addition to exhibiting his photos widely – California, New York, Germany, the Netherlands, Paris, Rome – he has published many of them as books with texts by contemporary poets and writers, such as BEAT – An Intimate memoir of image, text and reminiscence with 425 photographs celebrating the creative poets and artists who defined the Beat Generation, with texts by Amiri Baraka, David Amram, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Carolyn Cassady, 2007). His work as cinematographer, director, or producer of videos and films has been featured in film festivals and screenings from coast to coast and in Europe; in 1997 he won the prize for Best Art Documentary at the Cinema Arts Centre International Independent Film Festival for his video The Coney Island of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Where you can see more of this artist’s work:
For an overview of Felver’s photography related to Just Peace, Ordered World (2006) provides a selection of his photos from the previous decade. Many of his films and videos can be found on CD: West Coast: Beat and Beyond; Ferlinghetti: a Rebirth of Wonder; In Celebration of Sculpture: Tony Cragg; California Clay in the Rockies; All the Notes: Cecil Taylor; and his photos have been published along with the words of those he photographs, such as The Late Great Allen Ginsburg (2002); American Jukebox (2014); and Tending the Fire: Native Voices and Portraits (2017).