Unpaginated book of color photographs
Edition of 300, signed
$35 from the artist’s website
Recently the artist Carlos Caicedo and his daughter, Sandra, settled into the Eclipse Mill an artists complex in North Adams, Mass.
We invited our new neighbors for a fun dinner of nachos. They arrived with a bottle of wine as well as his magnificent, limited edition book. There were dazzling images of dramatically lit, cut, sculpted paper and cleverly configured ubiquitous yellow pencils.
My wife, Astrid Hiemer, describes it as a book of “Beauty, simplicity and illusion.”
He described the work as “abstract photography” which I will shortly ammend.
A native of Colombia, artist and graphic designer, Caicedo has resided in the United States since 1981. The quality of the work is readily self evident and deservedly the recipient of numerous awards.
Committed to writing I wanted to know more about him. While conversant and affable he tends to be understated. This is an unusual attribute when interacting with artists.
Carlos was somewhat flummoxed when I sent a simple e mail asking “Who are you?” Initially stymied, I insisted. After a couple of days, this was the brief response. Revealingly, stating much about his character and approach to image making, set in lower case; as though to diminish drawing attention to himself.
“I am carlos caicedo…a name with no upper caps/a paragraph without periods/a book without a preface/a statement with no exclamation point/a movie without a plot/an incurable obsessive creature that feeds on what’s next/I am a man without past, and my future is my present/I am my naked work, exposed, touched/I live in others’ imagination/they are my secret to survive”
It was an interesting volley that shot back at me with directness, sublime insight and intensity. In every sense, this is the Carlos, excuse me, the carlos that I coming to know. On my end of the exchange, arguably, with a mandate to dial back critical aggression. The challenge is to let the artist and work reveal itself on its own terms. The norm is for a critic to impose a construct onto the artist. Creators get locked into cages built to define and confine them. Better to allow the work to live and breathe. There is much in his work that’s rare and exquisite to absorb.
When engaging new and unfamiliar work, however, one can not and should not discard a lifetime of observation and art historical practice.
To wit, responding to his description of the work as “abstract” photography. It is a term used generically creating obfuscation. The current usage is a devolution of how abstract art emerged as an aspect of modernism in the twentieth century. Starting with nature the artists Cezanne, Picasso and Braque, Mondrian and Malevich, to name but few, through experimentation, observation and reduction evolved to schools and styles of abstraction.
Generally, contemporary artists go straight to abstraction. They do not pass Go or collect $200. Since there is no reductive, analytical process, the more correct term is “non objective.” The images are not abstracted from nature.
Famously, Hans Hoffmann, during a Provincetown studio visit, told Jackson Pollock to work from nature. Pollock answered “I am nature.”
One can take adult education classes or go on line to learn how to make “abstracts.” This is a genre of recreational activity akin to creating landscapes, still lives, nudes and portraits. In this context “abstracts” have no greater status than other categories of the Bob Ross academy of art history.
The point of this critical diversion is to establish what the work of caicedo is not. His work has depth and gravitas in the post Bauhaus tradition of non objective art.
That was brought home exquisitely during the recent occasion of Open Studios. Works, printed and mounted on metal, were displayed on easels in the most stunningly minimalist loft in the mill. There is a raised and recessed area designed for meditation by the original owner, the artist Liz Cunningham. Carlos was surprised when I pointed that out. On the steps we encountered a mannequin displaying a women’s ensemble with fabric he has designed.
It reflects his commitment to make the work and its refreshing design readily accessible. He delights in the notion that his art may be worn.
He demonstrated how the work is created from a single frame in the camera.
On a stand he places and arranges cut paper. These templates are stored in a flat file. The construction is then carefully lit from a variety of positions and angles. From the sides a range of colored paper squares are manipulated to cast shadows over the form. There is some tweaking when printing but these are not images derived from Photoshop. The process and variety of resultant images are entirely his own.
The sensibility is one of triangulation, vectors, and isolation of areas of color. There is evocation of the implied energy and movement of futurism. The images are given poetic titles that provide prescriptions to unlock their intentionality.
The other half of the work, as represented in the book, entails the endless possibilities of what to derive from ubiquitous yellow pencils. Here the photographs are the opposite of his non objective, sharply vectored, color pieces.
This imagery is clearly objective as he photographs objects, in this case, pencils. One approach is ‘abstract’ entailing arrangement of forms. The pencils also become ‘narratives’ as they spell out stories in the manner of witty illustration. They are presented as mark makers with elements of drawing. God in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling ‘draws’ Adam with a pencil. In other instances pencils are anthropomorphic ‘things’ that take naps or climb stairs.
What informs all this is a playful, probing persona. It is an approach of infinite possibilities with an economy of means, which allows for endless invention.
Carlos Caicedo in his loft/ studio. Giuliano photos
Carlos identifies himself as carlos.
Works displayed on easels
Mannequin with fashion created with his designed fabric
Demonstrating his technique
The cut paper construction is skillfully illuminated
The Natural Unwinding of a Flower
Promenade in the Nude
Surfing the Midnight Waves
Symphony in Pastels
Selfie-Homage to Escher
Beehive-A Worker's Factory
Lie Down Kiss-A Narcissist's Dream
Hang in There with the Humble Hanger
Possible Impossibilities-The Cube
More about carlos.
Carlos’ award-winning graphic work has been shown throughout the United States from Alaska to New York and South America. Museums include Museo La Tertulia in Cali, Colombia, The Anchorage Art Museum in Alaska, The Waterloo Arts Center in Iowa, The Ft. Wayne Museum in Indiana, The Springfield Art Museum in Missouri and the Housatonic Museum of Art in Connecticut. In 2008 he was invited to participate in the Florence Biennale of Contemporary Art in Italy. His work includes drawings, watercolor and acrylic paintings, and photography.
During the last few years, he has concentrated on exploring photography as an art form. Since 2019 he has won multiple Silver and Gold awards for his photo work with paper by the well-known international publication Graphis. In the same consecutive years, he was honored with two Gold medals and two Best of Show for his photography series using pencils as a subject, by Trierenberg Super Circuit in Austria, the largest photo art contest in the world.
One of his latest works features a multi-award animated short video based on his pencils, called “Doodle”, produced with a team led by his son.
My approach to photography
Paper and pencil have been my lifetime companions, not simply tools. In a digital age, these humble objects remain stubbornly useful, and our connection returns to memory. It’s a physical relationship. A yellow pencil in a child’s fist moving on blue-lined paper. The weight of a book and the sound of a page as it turns, the curve it makes, and how its shadow moves.
These are pleasures that haptics can’t mimic.
My photos are a journey of discovery with these old friends to see if we can still surprise each other. It’s looking at them with a new eye. It’s discovering how shape color and light can take us into a new and refreshing world. It’s a game where what we see comes from us, not what’s there. It’s a game of imagination. It’s an invitation to play and to see what you never imagined.
Photos and captions
Gather the riches from the fountain of life, pour them, and offer them to the Gods. Feel what it means to be a deity for a passing moment. Repeat the ritual as you see fit. Build your very own heaven. It can be your handy escape for eternity.
THE NATURAL UNWINDING OF A FLOWER
Spring is just around the corner and Nature starts preparing its palette. Grays are left behind to make room for greens, and reds, and the ever-present yellows and blues. There will be a time soon when the reveal will happen. Birds and butterflies will join the celebration to add a touch of color. Let’s get ready to give them a warm welcome.
PROMENADE IN THE NUDE
Leave all hesitation behind. Take only your favorite blue cape, and let the wind expose your beauty. Be bold and repaint the conservative environment to cover their disdain. Allow the colors of your honesty to surround you. Smile to yourself as you sketch your very own stroll.
SURFING THE MIDNIGHT WAVES
It’s that time of the day when the world falls into a deep sleep. The only sound your senses manage to grab is the rhythmic melody of the waves. It’s dark, but the shiny water captures the blue light painted by the moon. The explosive drops of water caress your naked body and surround your skin with an added thrill. The infinite ocean is all yours and only yours for the night.
SYMPHONY IN PASTELS
Grab the image with your senses and close your eyes. Listen to the silent sound of colors. Feel the flow of the intrusive light. See the never-ending symphony of tones that mix and dissolve, only to return and fill us with wonder. Use the ephemeral power of your imagination to own the moment.
It’s a dying day and the sun goes down, but the hills still glow in a ruddy blaze. Pink and crimson stick around, and a bloody shade taints the twilight haze. It’s the scream of Mother Nature. It’s her awesome way of showing pain. Soon all will be black and somber and the clouds will cry with forgiving tears. And a new sun will rise as a courier of hope.
Follow the open fingers of the Martini Glass to celebrate life. Shake the clear content to expose the wonders of light and let the small olive swim in joy. Click the invisible glass to cheer the moment. Take a sip to savor the crystalline melody coming from the band. Take a well-deserved pause to refresh your life minute by minute. Cheers!
Then God said, “Let Us DRAW man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and the cattle and all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” You might agree with me…the initial creation of man was kind of “sketchy”
SELFIE-HOMAGE TO ESCHER
It’s time to hold the pencil in your hands and be yourself again. Write that elusive thought before it escapes into oblivion. Draw the unique line that leads into your soul. Follow every memory since the time you felt you were grabbing the world between your little fingers and discovering the wonders of expression. Listen to the unique sound of the pencil as it caresses the rough texture of the paper and establishes the never-ending dialogue. After all, the humble pencil is an extension of our brains.
BEEHIVE-A WORKERS’ FACTORY
Beehive. One of the wonders of Mother Nature. An architectural model that combines the perfect solution of living and working space. You can also call it the ultimate modular housing construction where harmony reigns, where every worker knows its responsibilities and respects its boundaries. A model for any utopian society. Bee-autiful. Bee-loved. Bee passionate. Bee supportive. Bee grateful. Bee protective.
Call it a tent. Call it a triangle of a sort. Call it a rhombus. See it as an eye-catcher. Find it as a dimensional puzzle. Think of it as a possible impossibility. Take it as an invitation to see a world with different eyes. Or as an added effort to tickle your imagination.
LIE DOWN KISS-A NARCISSIST’S DREAM
Why not love yourself? Why not press that button and post that selfie? Why not draw your face with your right hand so the left one can recognize it and approve or disapprove? Why not give a kiss of acceptance to the face that for good or bad has been with you for so many years and will stay with you for the rest of your life? At a certain point, you might smile and say that you only need yourself to be yourself. You could call it acceptance. Or call it narcissism.
HANG IN THERE WITH THE HUMBLE HANGER
Make a triangle…add a question mark…and voila!…you’ve got a hanger. It’s that simple. It might look empty, thin, isolated…hungry. But hang that expensive coat and voila!… It’s now worth a million bucks! Hang on to your thoughts so you can retrieve them later. Hang on to your contained desires. Hang on to your friendship and your love. Hang on to every word…it might be worth the thought. Just get the hang of it.
POSSIBLE IMPOSSIBILITIES-THE CUBE
Imagination gives us the ability to make the impossible possible. I can also assure you that you won’t be able to achieve the impossible without attempting the absurd. What is unreasonable to some is normal to others. Split from the influence of prejudice and go for the freedom found within yourself. Nobody can take the power of your imagination away from your mind. Nobody.