Penumbra Foundation presented Black Alchemy: Resolve (attempt #1), the first solo exhibition in New York City by the photographer Aaron R. Turner.


Resolve (attempt #1) explores the linear movement of light, desire, and time. In the pursuit of abstraction to create speculative narratives, Turner uses various photographic techniques and processes, including reflective and archival materials, and in-camera and darkroom manipulation. This exhibition combines works from multiple series within and outside of Black Alchemy, and is a non-representational response to and visual analysis of objective and subjective ideas in photography as it relates to the individual lived experience of everyday life and internal contemplations.


Black Alchemy provides a lens through which I see the world while simultaneously considering the past, present, and future,” said Aaron Turner in a recent lecture at Penumbra Foundation. “I use light in combination with influences of geometric abstract painting to shift questions of identity within an established, often monolithic historical narrative.”


Turner’s project started in 2013. During the past ten years, different iterations have been presented as exhibitions and publications. Most recently, Black Alchemy: if this one thing is true was published by TIS (2021), and exhibited, in part, at the Houston Center for Photography (2022). Black Alchemy: there may be still time left, was exhibited at Visual Studies Workshop (2021), and published by VSW Press (2022).


For this exhibition, many photographs were reprinted in new sizes and surfaces. Vandyke and inkjet print as well as a daguerreotype are displayed together along with gelatin silver prints. Black Alchemy addresses Turner's thoughts on modern-day conversations around identity, marginality, abstraction, aesthetics, and ontology. As he claims, “I take direct inspiration from fellow artists' words, historical events, and my family archive to create this body of work. [...] My goal is to explore what ‘black art’ is and what a black artist is, concerning the black experience's representation.”

Aaron Turner is an artist and educator currently based in Arkansas. He uses photography as a transformative process to understand the ideas of home and resilience in two main areas of the U.S., the Arkansas and Mississippi Deltas. Turner creates still-life studies on identity, history, blackness as material, and abstraction. Turner received his M.A. from Ohio University and an M.F.A from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University. He was a 2018 Light Work Artists-in-Residence at Syracuse University, 2019 EnFoco Photography Fellow, 2020 Visual Studies Workshop Project Space Artists-in-Residence, 2020 Artist 360 Mid-America Arts Alliance Grant Recipient, 2021 Houston Center for Photography Fellowship Recipient, 2021 Creators Lab Photo Fund recipient from Google’s Creator Labs & the Aperture Foundation, and 2022 Darryl Chappell Foundation photographer in-residence at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

Related Topics