Tree, 1990,  Joel Fisher,  Color aquatint on four sheets of Somerset paper, Collection of the Tang Teaching Museum, Gift in Memory of Susan Sollins, 2016.12.3 

Joel Fisher’s work builds on itself in recursive cycles of self-reference. Fisher begins by making his own handmade paper. Inherent in the paper are tiny hair-like fibers, which early on caught Fisher’s eye. Fisher copies and enlarges selected fibers in pencil on paper. He calls these drawings “apographs,” a term he describes as “a complicated word for a copy that carries with it a sense of separation.” Fisher’s term also relates to the word apophenia, or the human tendency to discern meaningful patterns where there may not be any, as within random data. Fisher then translates his apograph drawings into three-dimensions, usually bronze sculptures, creating organic forms resembling dancing figures or trees. For Tree, Fisher extended his iterative process by photographing his 1987 sculpture, Study for a Tree, and enlarging the image until it became pixelated. He re-created this image with four hundred square plates of color aquatint and matched the colors to the shade of each pixel in the photograph. With the print Tree, Fisher circles back to a two-dimensional image, but locks the organic form into a grid-based structure, calling to mind digital media. He also brings us back to the apograph, inviting us to discover an underlying pattern in what may or may not be simply random data.

Rachel Seligman

Joel Fisher (b. 1947) was born in Salem, Ohio and received his BA from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. Fisher is the recipient of both the prestigious Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and the Pollock-Krasner Grant. He has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, United Kingdom, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Kunstmuseum in Lucerne, Switzerland, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. His work is in the collections of the Tate Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; the Centre Pompidou in Paris; the Staatliche Museum in Berlin, and in New York City at both the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. Fisher splits his time between Brooklyn, Vermont, and Paris.
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