How important is it to really understand how an image was made? Contemplating most art objects, we think we know, more or less, how they came into being. The chemigram, invented in 1956 by Belgian artist Pierre Cordier, is a different story. Cordier offers up a seemingly straightforward explanation, but the process remains maddeningly opaque. These “camera-less” photographic images are the result of exposing photo paper to the same chemicals usually employed to develop and fix images, but in unconventional ways: painted on the paper in broad daylight, they create a kind of “bloom.” Additional materials localize and particularize the chemical events taking place, functioning as resists. They include oil and varnish, but also honey, syrup or nail polish, all of which interact with the chemicals and paper in different ways.
silky surface, interrupted by short raised lines along the edges of some of the squares. Perhaps these are cuts in the surface that permit the chemicals to interact more directly in some precise locations. However they were created, these tiny scars are a reminder that these are unique works, made by hand—as much a result of physical action as chemical.