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LIGHT + METAL: David Ondrik on the Sublime Nature of Inheritance

photo-eye Gallery LIGHT + METAL:
David Ondrik on the Sublime Nature of Inheritance
photo-eye Gallery is very pleased to feature two abstract ephemeral photograms from David Ondrik's Inheritance series.

Primordial by David Ondrik installed at photo-eye Gallery for LIGHT + METAL
28x30 inches, Unique, $2,000 Framed
photo-eye Gallery is very pleased to feature two abstract ephemeral photograms from David Ondrik's Inheritance series. Spurred by the death of his father, Ondrik describes the work as an exploration of "the Sublime through the inheritance of tools both real and metaphorical," as well as his personal journey to process loss and understand the lasting effects of his father's influence.

In Inheritance, Ondrik employs the 19th-Century Romantic definition of sublime, which unlike the contemporary expression of pure joy, refers to “experiences of awe, terror, boundlessness, and divinity” – a wave of powerful complex emotions that overwhelm the senses. Ondrik uses his father's woodworking tools, some still stained by his hands, to create the hard-edged forms present in the photograms.

Many of the works in this series, such as Primordial above, are unfixed, allowing light to continue to alter the work over time, echoing the changing nature of personal relationship and memory. Ondrik sees the artworks as providing "room for quiet meditation and reflection, an opportunity to safely confront the traumas of existence," an experience we find truly sublime.

We reached out to David to share a few thoughts on the process of creating Inheritance, and why making unique work has become an important part of his practice.

A collection of pre-assembly Inheritance photograms pictured in David Ondrik's studio

photo-eye:     What inspired you to create the pieces that are included in LIGHT + METAL?

David Ondrik:     They’re an expression of my efforts to process and express the experiences of a loved one’s terminal illness, environmental degradation, and the vastness of the cosmos.

photo-eye:     Why did you choose the specific process or materials you used?

DO:     There is substantial unexplored potential within gelatin silver paper as its own artistic media, not just a medium for turning film-negatives into paper-positives. I’m attached to the quiet, meditative space within the darkroom, as that’s what initially appealed to me with photography. I’d probably be remiss not to mention that I was given around 2,000 sheets of slightly-to-very fogged Kodak Azo paper and wanted to make something with that material, rather than add it to a landfill.

David Ondrik, Erosion 1, 2018, installed at photo-eye Gallery for LIGHT + METAL
28x30 inches, Unique, $2,000 Framed

pe:     What type of work did you make prior to the work you are making today, and if the work was different, what inspired the change?
Works in progress at
David Ondrik's studio

DO:     I’ve been making cameraless photographic artworks since 2013: pinholes, exploded CDs on photo paper, and photograms made with my father’s carpentry tools. The two pieces in LIGHT + METAL are recent results of that exploration. I was inspired to get away from lens-based works after being dissatisfied with the literalness of a documentary project I completed in 2011. I wanted to move in the opposite direction — total abstraction.

pe:     Why are you making unique works, and is the fact they are unique important to you?

DO:     My wife and I saw a musical performance of a piece written for a cello and piano, I think it was one of John Cage’s works. What made this piece stand out is that it is scored in such a way that the musicians must interpret for themselves how to play it, so no two performances are the same. I wanted a similar situation in my visual art — one that has to be experienced in-person — which is what led to making unique, large-scale, and sometimes ephemeral, artworks.

David Ondrik
Print processing
pe:     Who are your influences?

DO:     My early influences are from UNM: Tom Barrow, Betty Hahn, and Patrick Nagatani, who all three pushed the definition of “photography.” More recently, Chris McCaw got me thinking of photo paper as an object; Walter Kitundu showed that a familiar object (a turntable) could be adapted into a completely unexpected instrument by exploring and subverting the consequences of the object’s inherent qualities. The Abstract Expressionists showed how line, shape, and color could combine to create profound experiences.

pe:     What is your favorite dessert?

DO:     Cherry cayenne pie!

David Ondrik at photo-eye Gallery
Image courtesy of Melanie McWhorter
David Ondrik is an artist, educator, and writer. He grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and now lives in Bloomington, IN. He received his BFA in studio art with an emphasis in photography from the University of New Mexico in 1998. From 2004-2014 he taught art in public high schools, specializing in photography but covering the gamut of drawing, painting, art history, and computer graphics. In 2009 he achieved a National Board Certification for Early Adolescent / Young Adult Visual Art Instruction. His artwork has been exhibited across the country, appears in numerous publications, and is in the collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art, the University of New Mexico Art Museum, and multiple New Mexico public art collections. He received his MFA in photography from Indiana University in 2017 and is currently a Visiting Professor of Photography at Indiana University.


LIGHT + METAL has been extended at photo-eye Gallery 
through Saturday, September 22nd, 2018. 

For additional information on David Ondrik's work, 
and to purchase prints, please contact Gallery Staff at 
505-988-5152 x202 or