Artist Spotlight: Clint Baclawski

Abigail Ogilvy Gallery is thrilled to officially represent the artwork of Clint Baclawski, a Boston-based artist working with photography, technology, light, and space. Working out of 35 Wareham Street studio, Clint transforms his landscape photographs into 3D light installations. He separates his photographs into sections which he wraps around LED light tubes and sets vertically across plexiglass sheets. The result is an interactive and compelling illuminated landscape whose dialogue with the viewer renews and refreshes as the viewer moves along the composition. We recently sat down with Clint to ask him questions about his background, process, and recent work. Check out our interview below:

Photograph of Clint Baclawski by Tony Luong

Abigail Ogilvy Gallery: How has your upbringing influenced your work? What was the original spark that drew you to study photography?

Clint Baclawski: Growing up, I was a Montessori student so, even from a very young age, I’ve always been encouraged to explore my creative interests in the greatest way possible. My older sister, also an artist, attended MICA, originally for photography before switching to painting. She was a constant source of inspiration for me to pursue a creative path. However, it was really my father, a veteran and former state police officer, who inspired me to pick up my first camera at 12 years old. He was a photography hobbyist and invited me to join him for one of the photography darkroom classes he was attending. Since that day, I’ve essentially not put my camera down for the last 25 years.

AOG: Fast-forward several years later, and you’ve graduated with a degree in advertising photography. Why the shift towards fine art? What lessons from advertising have you held onto?

CB: The impetus to major in advertising photography was simply my desire to learn everything I possibly could about cameras and lighting. However, it was never my intention to go into the field of advertising or editorial work as I’ve always been drawn more towards fine art. Despite the early rise of digital photography, I was fortunate enough to be attending an institution, Rochester Institute of Technology, that had such a strong connection to The Eastman Kodak Company and film. The school instilled in me a great love of positive E-6 film, which is the basis of why I continue to shoot exclusively with a large-format camera. My early fascination with light, without my conscious knowledge, was developed during critiques. Instead of presenting images on the wall, we presented our film transparencies on a light table, in order to better develop exposure, technicality, and knowledge.

AOG: What is your creative process like? How do you start a piece? Do you have a vision of the end result?

CB:
When I’m conceptualizing my next work, sometimes I start a piece with the photograph, and, other times I will start a piece by considering how I’d like it presented, then hunt for an image which will best align with that vision.

Even with the rise of digital photography during my undergraduate years, I’ve always been drawn to film photography and these days my large format camera is often mistaken for a video camera when it’s on the tripod. The most unique aspect of my process is that I typically only shoot one frame. I either capture the image or I don’t.

I am interested in making each piece uniquely different from the previous one. I’ve enjoyed playing with multiple sizes of lightbulbs, spacing between the bulbs, and the pattern of those bulbs. Also, I’m very loyal to my camera. Everything I’ve shot in the past 15 years has been with the same Horseman camera with a standard 150 lens.

Clint Baclawski, Oasis, 2017. Glossy red Plexiglas and red mirrored Plexiglas on Dibond, archival pigment backlight prints, clear polycarbonate tubes, 2′ LED bulbs 44 x 80 x 3 in.

AOG: You’ve previously spoken about the serendipitous moment of a piece of film draping over a blub and inspiring this new exploration. How do light bulbs differ from your light boxes? What does this medium offer you?

CB: Yes, I entered graduate school in 2006 at MassArt, presenting rather traditional 2-D work. Then, for a few years, inspired by Canadian artist Jeff Wall, I presented my work in custom-built lightboxes. One night, in my studio a piece of discarded photograph fell onto a light table, setting off a figuratively lightbulb in my head, which lead me to begin wrapping my images around them.

On the most basic level, my current light bulb pieces are a deconstruction of the light boxes. As a medium, the lightbulb offers me endless of options of size and scale, which is a departure to the more confined nature of the lightboxes.

AOG: Much of your current photography explores landscapes and architecture, whether it be a houseboat, wind turbines, or a home. Why this theme? What kinds of subject matter are you drawn to?

CB:
In the last few years, I’m drawn to photographing places that are generally solitary in nature and were often inhabited but may no longer be. I then use the lightbulbs as a representative symbol of former advertising displays. More recently, after living here for almost 13 years, I’ve finally turned my camera to capture subject matter in New England. Previously, most of the imagery I exhibited was far outside of New England.

2017, ©Clint Baclawski

AOG: Last fall, you showed Zephyr, an immersive installation in a shipping container for Boston’s HUB week (and recently sold, woohoo congrats). How has this harmony between technology and art, electricity and film, defined your work?

CB:
I wouldn’t exactly say defined it but when HUBweek asked me to propose artwork for the shipping container I was intrigued by the concept and felt confident that I already had an image, Zephyr, that strongly represented their theme. Zephyr at HUBweek was really about viewer engagement. The scale allowed the piece to be viewed from different angles, producing a different viewer experience for each person. Some HUBweek viewers preferred the upclose nature of the work, which produces an abstract image, but most prefer to walk along the image until it comes together as one. And, quite honestly, the children who viewed the piece simply loved the lights. As a father, I took particular delight in young people interacting with the work.

AOG: What types of pieces are you working on currently? Do you have any goals or experiments you’re eager to try?

CB: Lately, I’ve been working on a few large-scale site-related proposals and one I am particularly excited about is entitled Fringe. The installation includes new materials and a slight departure from my other image concepts and I look forward to presenting it in the gallery as part of a solo exhibition opening on Friday, September 6, 2019.

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Clint Baclawski’s solo exhibition locations include San Luis Obispo, California; St. Louis, Missouri; Boston, Massachusetts; Edinburgh, Scotland; and group shows at the Chelsea Art Museum, Danforth Museum, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, San Diego Art Institute, and others. His work has been featured in: FRAME magazine, The Boston Globe, The Creator’s Project, Boston Home magazine, Designboom, Take Magazine, and The Collector’s Guide to New Art Photography Volume II. When not in his studio or behind a camera, Clint is a staff member, and teaches Installation Art to graduate students at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Curator's Notes: Night Swimming

Our intern Abby Lindsay sat down with Abigail Ogilvy and Ally Boli to ask a few questions about their co-curated exhibition, Night Swimming, on view this summer:

Q: At Abigail Ogilvy Gallery, you present both group and solo shows. Is the creative process for curating solo shows particularly different than for a group exhibition?

Abigail: Absolutely, each show is so nuanced in terms of how it comes together. Our recent solo exhibition with Anna Schuleit Haber happened very organically, the works were all in the Northeast (her studio is in New Orleans) and she was quick to work with us on the writing and promotion. For our current show, Night Swimming, Ally and I both researched, met with artists, and discussed who would be the best fit. We were excited to exhibit a few new artists this summer, and are very pleased with how the show turned out.

Q: How long did it take to plan this exhibition? How far in advance did you start preparing for Night Swimming?

Abigail: Each exhibition varies, but for this particular exhibition it took just over a year of planning, studio visits, and selection of the artwork.

Q:  How did you come up with the title, Night Swimming?

Abigail: Ally picked it! So I’ll let her explain.

Ally: I felt Jenna Pirello's piece Night Swimming encapsulated elements of other artists work, visually it references the black background of Donna Moylan's work Twelve Twelve, as well as the fluidity of Natalia Wróbel's work. Austin Eddy also reference's swimming and nighttime in a few of his titles such as, Four Birds, Two Boys, Lake Floating Late at Night in Spring and Two Birds, One Flag Bearer Swimming Down Stream Past a Tunnel.

Q: You are showing Austin Eddy’s artwork for the first time, what drew you to his work initially?

Austin Eddy, "Flying-Fingers, City-Face (Between Here and There)," Oil stick, paper collage on fabric collage on canvas, 40 x 60 in.

Abigail: I saw Austin’s work in an exhibition in June 2017.  We were attracted to his work for the same reason we exhibited each painter in this show. Like all of the artists on view, Austin has a unique and interesting process, is hardworking, smart, and an incredibly talented artist. For Austin specifically, I was initially attracted to his use of basic geometric forms as building blocks for his paintings.

Ally: Abigail showed me his work and I loved his use of texture. 

Q: Austin Eddy, Donna Moylan, and Jenna Pirello are originally from the Boston area, and Natalia Wróbel worked in Boston until last year. Did this impact your decision to feature them together in this exhibition?

Abigail: Isn’t it interesting how they all have ties to Boston? That was a complete accident, we actually didn’t even notice until we were finalizing their bio pages on the website!  

Q: You represent Natalia Wróbel, and have featured her paintings in previous exhibitions at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery. How did you decide which of her works to include in Night Swimming?

Natalia Wróbel, "Luminaries," Oil paint on linen, 39.4 x 47.2 in.

Abigail: Natalia is constantly pushing herself to create new work and go outside of her comfort zone artistically. When she does so, a new series is born and it is amazing to watch her work grow and develop. This new work was created during her artist residency at the Berlin Art Institute in Germany this past fall, and this show debuts these works in Boston.

 Q:  The paintings featured in Night Swimming explore the imaginary using both figuration and abstraction. What effect do you think this has on the audience?

Abigail: Our goal is always to create interesting exhibitions in which visitors want to spend a lot of time with each artwork. The works in Night Swimming really cannot be understood with a quick glance, the audience is forced to slow down. It’s been wonderful to watch our visitors take in the work from a distance, and then get close and analyze the details.

Ally: I hope it inspires our audience to ask questions, whether to themselves, their friends, or to me! 

Q: What does a typical installation day look like for you?

Abigail: I absolutely love install week! Well, it is really a two day period. It may come as a surprise, but I am typically the person who de-installs the previous show (taking down the works), and then I retouch the walls with spackle and bright white paint. When the walls are blank and ready for the next show, there is so much opportunity on the horizon! Usually de-install takes a day and then we install the next day, we like efficiency. 

Ally: And a couple trips back and forth between the gallery and Home Depot

Q: What would you say is the hardest part of coordinating an exhibition?

Abigail: Ah, I hate that question! To answer the reverse of that question, my favorite part is when the first artwork is hung and we are on our way to having a show!

Ally: It's hard to pinpoint, each exhibition presents its own set of unique challenges which is part of what I love.

Rena Detrixhe, "Red Dirt Rug," Photo courtesy of Mark Andrus

Q: Any upcoming shows you are excited about?

Abigail: I think our programming in 2018 has been our strongest in the gallery history – and we have a powerhouse roster of artists exhibiting this fall. Starting with Rena Detrixhe’s installation of Red Dirt Rug in September and ending with our first solo exhibition by Natalia Wróbel in November!

Ally: All of them - go check out our upcoming exhibition page to take a peek what's next.