The main gallery space will display five large-scale black-and-white photographs of the active working surface of a coal mine in the Ruhr Valley, Germany. This series, titled Coal Seam, Bergwerk Prosper-Haniel, was shot in 2013 with an 8 x 10 camera using long exposures that capture the terrain in the darkness of the mine shaft.
These images are like a window into a dense field of pitch-black combustible matter, compressed over millions of years. The prints, which each measure 57 x 50 inches (145 x 127 cm), show a deep crack that splits the image in two parts. This division of the pictorial field recalls the formal concerns of minimalism as well as monochromatic painting.
The second group of works on view titled Chemical Pictures, consists of a group of color images that are inspired by the paper chromatographic experiments of the mid-nineteenth century German scientist, F.F. Runge. Coolidge follows Runge’s original instructions for combining various chemicals on the surface of paper to create saturated rings of color that are simultaneously controlled procedures and unique enigmatic images. These images call to mind tantric drawings, halos, and eyes. The titles for these works are derived from the instructions for each chemical combination.
Coal Seam redux addresses scientific, social and artistic history with a rich visual vocabulary. Coal is essential to these bodies of work both as a subject and as the material used to create the pigments on the photographs themselves. This conflation of subject and object is the crux of Coolidge’s nuanced investigations.