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New Showcase Artist: Walter Plotnick

photo-eye Gallery New Showcase Artist: Walter Plotnick photo-eye Gallery
photo-eye Gallery is pleased to present a new portfolio, Surprise Inside, by Walter Plotnick.

Walter Plotnick, Aiming for a Brighter Future, silver halide print, 16” x 20,” edition of 15, $1950

photo-eye Gallery is thrilled to welcome Walter Plotnick to the Photographer's Showcase.

Walter Plotnick is a photo-based artist who received his BFA from Tyler School of Art and MFA from University of the Arts.  His current work is a hybrid of wet photography and digital process, and he draws his influences from the work of Bauhaus, Constructivist and Surrealist photographers from the 1920s through the 1940s.

He has exhibited both in the USA and in Europe and is represented in a number of collections. Major series by this artist have included the 1939 World’s Fair, abstract photograms and 1930s circus performers.

Recently, we had the pleasure to talk to Walter about his practice and his remarkable series Surprise Inside. Take a look at the interview below!

Walter Plotnick, Swinging' Sisters, silver halide print, 16” x 20,” edition of 15, $1950

Patricia Martin: When did you get into art and photography?

Walter Plotnick: My mother was a painter, my father, an amateur photographer. When I was twelve years old my father set up a make-shift darkroom in the basement of our house. He taught me to process film and enlarge prints. I have been making images ever since. Throughout Junior and Senior High, I carried my camera everywhere. In college, I majored in photography at Tyler School of Art. Professor William Larson suggested I try not to carry my camera everywhere, but begin to make images in my mind and then go and create those images. During that time, photographer Arthur Tress’ book Theater of the Mind was an inspiration because he chose specific locations and used props, rather than capturing the decisive moment.

Walter Plotnick, Holding Pattern, silver halide print, 16” x 20,” edition of 15, $1950

PM: Could you tell us what inspired you to create the Surprise Inside series?

WP: As a child I use to disassemble my cereal boxes, especially the small single-serve boxes that would open along the front. Inside there was always some printing, glue, or color codes from the printer. I liked the geometry of the folds, and that someone designed the box. Around that time, I saw the movie To Kill a Mockingbird, where Boo Radley leaves a cigar box hidden in a tree for Jem. This also stayed with me, that the objects in the cigar box told a personal story. The Surprise Inside series has grown organically from these childhood memories of discovering some secret by opening and unfolding a box. Several of my pieces incorporate imagery of children, and the newness of discovering what is inside. 

Walter Plotnick, Summer Soaring, silver halide print, 16” x 20,” edition of 15, $1950

PM: The visual correlation between the images and boxes in Surprise Inside is very interesting — the folds of the boxes and the placement of the images make the collages playful and cinematic. How do you choose to pair and assemble specific images and boxes?

WP: I have been collecting boxes in my travels, anything from a small bar of soap box, to medicine boxes from Italy with braille, to large boxes with die-cut windows. I usually think of a visual theme, specific images, and then root through my stack of boxes to find the right one to collage the images on. In some way my work is related to the moving image, sequencing and movement are ideas I play around with — a certain interplay that feels like a storyboard of ideas. I have always enjoyed the beauty of acrobats and daredevils, I play with balancing, levitating, flying, all activities I am too risk-averse to try myself. In print, a controlled near-disaster gives me a thrill.

Walter Plotnick, Junkyard Special, silver halide print, 16” x 20,” edition of 15, $1950

PM: Your collages evoke a strong sense of nostalgia, yet they feel new as they literally unravel. Could you speak about the role of memory and what you describe as the “metaphor of anticipation” in your work?

WP: The past is perhaps the overriding theme. Whether it is a memory, an actual event, or inventions of both. There are certain 20th Century time periods that I gravitate towards design-wise, architecturally, and emotionally. An earlier body of my work was Reimaging the World of Tomorrow. This was based on images from the 1939 New York World’s Fair. A time between the depression and WW2 where people were imagining and designing for a modern futuristic world. The Surprise Inside series employees a similar nostalgia, incorporating vintage 1930s-40s images, warm-toned and somewhat romanticized, often spring-loaded with a tension ready to pop, like moments of anticipation felt in childhood. 

Walter Plotnick, Child's Play, silver halide print, 16” x 20,” edition of 15, $1950
PM: Which artists currently inspire you?

WP: My go-to list includes Man Ray, Joseph Cornell, Moholy-Nagy, Maurice Tabard, Willy Kessels, Ilsa Bing, August Sander, El Lisssitzky, Alexander Rodchenko, John Heartfield and pretty much all of the Constructivist artists.

PM: What has been one of your favorite reactions or responses that someone has had to your work?

WP: I am thrilled when someone sees something new that I did not notice or intend.

PM: Is there anything that you’re working on currently, or a different direction you think your work might take in the future?

WP: I am not done with the Surprise Inside series, I am knee-deep in boxes.

Walter Plotnick, New York, Uprising, silver halide print, 16” x 20,” edition of 15, $1950

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For more information, and to purchase prints, please contact Gallery Staff at 
505-988-5152 x202 or