James Welling (born 1951 in Hartford, Connecticut) is a postmodern artist. He earned both a BFA and an MFA at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, where he studied with, among others, Dan Graham. He emerged in the 1970s as a postconceptual artist for whom photographic norms and the representational field itself were and remain contested and problematized. Welling lives and works in Los Angeles.
During his career, Welling has experimented with different photographic mediums, including Polaroids, gelatin silver prints, photograms, and digital prints.
Having studied under John Baldessari at CalArts and exhibited with Sherrie Levine at Metro Pictures, Welling began his career in the so-called Pictures Generation. His self-education in photography began in 1976 with the series Los Angeles Architecture & Portraits. In 1977 his second series, Diary/Landscape, matched the handwriting of his great-grandparents' letters with winter landscapes in Connecticut. Another well-known 2009 series by Welling is a meditation over a period of three years on Philip Johnson’s Glass House, shot in situ using colored filters. By contrast, his images of the Maison de Verre, are digitally manipulated. The rooms are lightened and brightened so that in some cases they glow unnaturally like a magazine spread. Yet another series consists of rectangles of pure color, made in the darkroom using colored filters. For his photogram series Torsos (2005–08), Welling cut screening, of the same type used for windows, to follow bodily contours and placed them on chromogenic paper before exposing them.
Welling has held various teaching positions at universities since 1995. He is currently Area Head of Photography at UCLA. In the fall of 2014, he will serve as Visiting Professor of Photography at Princeton University, where he previously held the position in 2012.
- Welling was the photographer of the cover art for Sonic Youth's 1985 album Bad Moon Rising.
- Welling collaborated with U.S. poet Susan Howe, providing six black-and-white photograms to accompany the text of THAT THIS, published in 2010.
- In 2009 Welling designed a hand-knotted rug for BravinLee programs.
- For the spring collection of Italian fashion label Brioni, Welling collaborated with the brand's creative director Brendan Mullane on a triple exposed floral print that was showered over zip front collared jackets, short sleeved silk shirts and Prince of Wales check suits.
Venues at which Welling has exhibited include the 2008 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. In 2009, Welling’s work was featured in the historical survey, The Pictures Generation, 1974-1984, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and in 2008, he participated in the Whitney Biennial. In 1992, his work was included in documenta IX. Retrospectives of his work have been held at David Zwirner in 2008 and a major survey, titled James Welling: Monograph, was held at the Cincinnati Art Museum in Ohio and accompanied by a large-scale catalogue published by Aperture; the exhibition later traveled to the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.
The artist's work is held in major museum collections, including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
In 2014, the New York Times considered Welling one of today’s most influential photographers. That year, the artist was named one of the recipients of the Infinity Award given by the International Center of Photography, New York.
- Flowers, David Zwirner, New York, 2007. ISBN 978-0976913689
- Monograph, Aperture: New York, 2013.
- Diary/Landscape, University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 2014. ISBN 9780226204123
- James Welling David Zwirner Gallery.
- James Welling Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
- Ken Johnson (January 30, 2014), Digital, Analog and Waterlogged New York Times.
- Sharon Mizota (October 18, 2013), Review: James Welling searches for beauty Los Angeles Times.
- Whitney Biennial 2008: James Welling Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
- Geffen Records, Sonic Youth ad, Spin, April 1995: 38.
- JJ Martin (June 24, 2014), Brioni S/S 2015 Wallpaper.
-  James Welling
- Official artist website
- James Welling at David Zwirner
- Selected Press at David Zwirner
- James Welling's film, "Lake Pavilion," 2009, on Artforum
- James Welling's photography on The New York Times
- James Welling on Artnet
- James Welling at the Museum of Contemporary Photography
- James Welling at Regen Projects
- James Welling interviewed by Jeremy Sigler in Modern Painters
- James Welling at Kadist Art Foundation