longtime interest…

While CUPtopia’s staff was collecting the data on Falvin Judd for yesterday’s post, we stumbled across the photographer James Welling.

Lesson / Koan : Learn your landscape.

James Welling builds a utopia which Philip Johnson never could…and takes the viewer to a new world landscape in the process.


Over the course of three years (2006-2009), James Welling photographed the 1949 house and estate of the acclaimed modernist architect Philip Johnson in New Canaan, CT.

Using digital cameras set on a tripod and holding a variety of filters in front of the lens, Welling was able to create coloured veils and distortions that transformed the image at the moment of exposure. The intense colour created by these gels, along with unexpected views, produce a radically new way of looking at Johnson’s iconic house. Although the Glass House is symmetrical, the frontal view which allows one to see through the house to the landscape most fascinated Welling. The big glass box, plonked down in the Connecticut landscape seemed like a conceptual sculpture, a gigantic lens in the landscape.

The project became a laboratory for ideas about transparency, reflectivity, and colour. With this work, Welling continues to explore his longtime interest in colour phenomena and trichromatic vision, the process by which our eyes and brain work together to perceive the visible spectrum.


James Welling was born 1951 in Hartford, Connecticut. He earned both a BFA and an MFA at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, where he worked primarily in video and studied with Wolfgang Stoerchle and John Baldessari. He emerged in the ’70s as an artist for whom photographic norms and the representational field itself were and remain contested and problematized.

Welling is a Professor of Photography at University of California, Los Angeles.