by Britt Chester

Emil Salto’s ephemeral atmosphere at SECCA


The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) has just unveiled its latest installation in the Solo Series: Danish artist Emil Salto‘s installation, “Light Forms,” will run alongside filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson’s “Gather Round” exhibition at the museum.

“I thought it would be interesting to pair two artists who are worlds apart,” said Cora Fisher, curator for SECCA. “(Everson) challenges those assumptions as to what we think a film can be. Emil challenges that with photography in that it crosses the line of performance, and it’s really invested in seeing what happens with light in a photographic medium.”

Salto’s work, which could pass for the layman as simple photographs, is a process that actually doesn’t require the use of a camera at all.

“I wanted to have a more direct approach “” I wanted to create a situation where I could record time through action, and I started working with photograms, which are images made solely by the imprint of light on photo paper,” Salto said.

For the process, which changed as Salto progressed in medium, he would work in a darkroom under a red light, similar to analog photography dark rooms, moving objects and leaving images on the photo paper. As he became more enveloped in the process, he turned the red light off.

“I found that I wanted to rely more on intuition and feel, so I shut the red light off in the darkroom and worked in total darkness, guided only by a mental image of space and the feel of my hands moving objects around on the photo paper,” he said.

Fisher was introduced to Salto when she was working in Scandinavia under curator Milena Hoegsberg.

Following her work with Hoegsberg, Fisher received a grant from the Danish Arts Foundation to do an extensive studio visit with Salto.

“To think about how this would happen in the space, Emil built a scale model of SECCA, and we proceeded to work the installation in a maquette,” she said.

To coincide with the exhibit, SECCA has invited Robin Clarke, director of the Artist Initiative at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, to deliver a written piece on the work that will be published in book form and offered for sale at SECCA and in Europe.

Clarke will be visiting SECCA in November to conduct her research and delivering the written piece for December printing.

“She insisted on seeing the work in person, and that’s important because this work is ephemeral in the light based aspect of it,” Fisher said.

Fisher also added that the idea behind the solo series is to provide a diversity of the kinds of artistic practices that are available. As curator, she wants to give people tools to understand how to look at contemporary art and help provide a narrative as to what contemporary art can be.

“I envision this solo series to have a wide variety of practices. His work really connects beautifully with art and innovation, which is Winston-Salem’s motto,” Fisher said.

Fisher sees a lot of connections to the past through Salto’s work. One of the big ones, as noted by Salto himself when listing influences and interests, is the relation to the Bauhaus movement from the mid-20 th century.

“Looking back at the Bauhaus movement as it happened in North Carolina at Black Mountain College,” recalled Fisher. “There were expatriate artists teaching at the school, in the middle of the century, teaching color theory “” teaching architecture,” Most recently, Salto has been working at SECCA with Fisher to construct the exhibit perfectly so it works within the confines of the space.

“That’s one of the things to emphasize; it’s meant to be atmospheric and environmental, and optimally experienced in person,” Fisher said. !


SECCA is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 1–5 p.m. SECCA is closed on Mondays. Emil Salto’s “Light Forms” will be on display until Jan. 3. Kevin Jerome Everson’s “Gather Round” will be on display until Dec. 1. Admission to SECCA is free.