Ray K. Metzker
Ray K. Metzker American, 1931-
As a student of Arthur Siegel, Aaron Siskind, and Harry Callahan in Chicago at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology, Ray Metzker was influenced by the spirit of photographic experimentation at the "New Bauhaus." Extending photography's formal vocabulary beyond description and into the realm of visual puzzles, Metzker is best known for his creative use of pattern, high tonal contrast, focus, print size, and composition. He first explored these issues in his single-image work of the 1950s, moving in the 1960s to make multiframe assemblages that juxtaposed highly contrasted fragments of figures, objects, and architectural elements to create kinetic patterns and mosaic grids. Envisioning an entire roll of film as one negative, Metzker describes his Composites series as an explanation of "the potential of the black-and-white still photograph to deal with the complexity of succession and simultaneity."
Metzker resumed the single-image format in a series of New Mexican landscapes during the early 1970s, fusing high-contrast blocks created by buildings, leaves, and his own shadow with subjects rendered in the more traditional gradation of black-and-white tones. His Pictus Interruptus series of 1977 continued the play of tone and perspective, wherein objects placed close to the lens appeared blurred, obscuring scenic backdrops views of Greece and Philadelphia. In 1989, with the assistance of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and a residency from the La Napoule Foundation, Metzker photographed in the south of France for his series titled Sojourn. In this and his later series In Nature's Realm (1994), he continued to explore the photographic interplay of natural textures and forms.
Born in Milwaukee, Metzker earned a B.A. in art from Beloit College (1953) and an M.S. in photography from the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology (1959). His work has been featured in one-person exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago (1959, 1985, 1991), the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1967), the Milwaukee Art Center (1970), the International Center of Photography, New York (1978), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1984), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1985), the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1985), the High Museum of Art, Atlanta (1986), George Eastman House, Rochester (1986), the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C (1986), and the Cleveland Museum of Art (1991). Metzker has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1966, 1979) and the National Endowment for the Arts (1974, 1988), an award from La Napoule Foundation, France (1989), and a Bernheim Fellowship (1989).
Metzker has taught photography at the Rhode Island School of Design (1977), the University of New Mexico (1970-72), Columbia College (1980), and the Philadelphia College of Art (1962-80). He lives in Philadelphia and Moab, Utah. A.W.