Academic Shading Exercise

Robert Cumming
Diptych of gelatin silver prints
image: 7 11/16 x 9 5/8 inches (19.53 x 24.45 cm); mount: 22 x 15 inches (55.88 x 38.1 cm)
Gift of Richard and Ronay Menschel in Memory of James M. Smith.
Curatorial Comments: 

The body of work created by the artist Robert Cumming in Los Angeles in the 1970s is unified by an original, complex sensibility. It includes a fanciful sense of humor (akin to that of his fellow California creator William Wegman), a deep enjoyment of craft for its own sake (shared with Ed Ruscha), a conceptualist's approach to photography (compare John Baldessari), and a quality all Cumming's own: a sincere Yankee appreciation for philosophy, technology, and invention as creative fields akin to visual art. One in an unnamed mid-decade series of photographic diptychs, Academic Shading Exercise is "academic" both in its literal subject-a classroom chalkboard-and in an art historical sense, as the artist plays with the principles of "academic" draftsmanship shared by art and engineering. In a characteristically concise gesture, the artist pulls together three systems of pictorial convention-volumetric shading, white-for- black chalkboard rendering, and negative-positive photographic printing-to produce a deceptively simple-looking lesson in visual representation.

Richard and Ronay Menschel.
© Robert Cumming / Artists Rights Society (ARS) NY