What do you get when you combine the talent of modern photographic artist Duane M. Conliffe and the genius of multi-media artist Sargent Johnson? The Public Works of Sargent Johnson, a unique interpretation of Johnson’s ground-breaking work interpreted by Conliffe, which just concluded its exhibition on Dec. 15 at Africa House Gallery in Lynchburg, Va.
Conliffe has long found inspiration from Johnson’s work, who is widely seen as the first African American artist of note on the West Coast. Conliffe’s exhibition focused on a turning point in Johnson’s career, 1936-1949, when Johnson began to receive support for public commissions through government funders like the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC). Johnson’s large-scale works were often incorporated into the architecture of the buildings that house them.
So Conliffe set about documenting Sargent’s public works of art, including a section of Johnson’s two-part artwork called Sea Forms. Sea Forms graces the front and back of the San Francisco Maritime Museum. Conliffe photographed the slate carving that surrounds the main entrance of the building as the featured piece of the exhibit.
Conliffe printed the section photo on Photo Tex Repositionable Fabric from LexJet with his EPSON Stylus Pro 9800 and the Ultrachrome K3 ink set. Conliffe then applied the prints onto a thin, clear acetate. The image panels were then applied to the backside of an antique dressing screen with small neodymium magnets.
“The translucency of the Photo Tex means the artwork changes throughout the day, according to the light levels at the time. This is a very compelling feature of this material when it’s backlit,” says Conliffe. “The acetate was the perfect substrate to apply the Photo Tex for just the right effect. However, I ran into some problems with bubbles when I was applying it, so I went to the LexJet site and found a video about how to put the Photo Tex down, so I used a squeegee, which made it a lot easier. It all worked out exactly like I had envisioned it; I’m very pleased with this piece.”
The exhibit also features six photo tapestries printed on LexJet Water-Resistant Satin Cloth. The four portrait-oriented pieces are 44″ x 72″ (image area is 40″ x 60″) while the landscape or horizontal pieces were printed at 70″ x 44″ and 60″ x 40″.
The tapestries were hung using SNAPRAILS from Popco USA, which Conliffe was able to find thanks to his LexJet customer specialist, who found the right product to finish off the tapestries.
The Public Works of Sargent Johnson in Lynchburg was the third large-format photography exhibit of Conliffe’s interpretations. The first was commissioned by the Richmond Art Center in Richmond, Calif., with a grant from The San Francisco Foundation. The second exhibition was held at the Canessa Gallery, which resides across the street from the Transamerica Pyramid building in San Francisco.
“I originally printed the tapestries on the Water-Resistant Satin Cloth; it’s very lightweight, very portable and wouldn’t cost me a fortune to get it to the East Coast,” says Conliffe. “These were originally done in a very compressed time frame. I traveled around the Bay Area to capture the images, and then processed and printed them. Each part of the process was quite intensive.”
Brenda Waller, MD, of the Institute for Integrative Medicine & Comprehensive Rehabilitation (IIMCR) in Lynchburg, is a long-time collector of Conliffe’s art and arranged an introduction to Ann van de Graaf, owner of the Africa House Gallery. Waller would end producing the exhibit at the Africa Gallery House.
“I also sent [van de Graaf] some of my botanical and Ferrari images so I could show some of the other things I do at the exhibit; as people moved through the gallery they would also see my work, which worked out well,” says Conliffe. “People walked into the reception and were stunned by the dressing room screen on Photo Tex. They told me they had never seen anything like it before. It’s definitely a step up for me. I also love the Water-Resistant Satin Cloth and that I can print on it as large as I can with such great visual impact, yet it’s so light and easy to move around. LexJet has great products, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.”
To find out more, check out the videos embedded below: An introduction to artist Duane Conliffe and an overview of The Public Works of Sargent Johnson in Lynchburg…