Richard Slechta’s involvement with the phenomenon of light has been a constant throughout his career. Over the past two decades he has pursued light, space, and form in his striking and highly innovative photograms.
Slechta was born in Corvallis, Oregon in 1972 and grew up on a farm, developing an early interest in photography. He received a scholarship to the School of Visual Arts in New York and studied fine art photography, graduating with a BFA in 1995. Slechta began working with the emerging digital technology as a studio photographer for the jewelry company Van Cleef & Arpels. In the late 1990s he entered the field of video production for advertising and branding.
In 2003 Slechta moved to Hollywood to further his study of lighting for film visual effects at the Gnomon School. Up until a few years ago, Slechta was at the top of his game as one of Hollywood’s most accomplished Lighting Technical Directors in the field of photo-realistic, computer generated imagery working in such notable films as Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter and Stephen King’s The Mist. And even though he had been creating photograms in his own studio as far back as 1992, it wasn’t until Slechta witnessed his father’s long and arduous passing that he realized the fine artist that always inhabited his sole needed his complete and undivided attention.
As a student in the 1990s, Slechta was drawn to the work of Edward Weston, the American photographer known for his abstraction of natural forms. Other early influences were Ito Jakuchu, the 18th century Japanese painter of animals and plants, and zenga, Japanese brush painting that embodied Buddhist beliefs. Slechta has cited an affinity with the California-based Light and Space artists, and with John Cage, the avant-garde composer who used chance procedures. He relates his work to contemporary developments in photography, particularly the work of Wolfgang Tillmans and Adam Fuss.
Over the past twenty years, Slechta has developed a distinctive approach to creating photograms, indirect photographic images produced without using a camera. Begun in 1992, Conversions is a series of large-scale photograms that explore the transformation of the human figure, dimensionally shadowed onto light sensitive paper. Obsidian Sketches series followed and are towering, vertical photograms that use nature’s organic forms to suggest skeletal vignettes of naturalistic forces. Beneath The Surface from 2002 introduced flowing paint to capture a sense of “action in mid-stream”. Celestial Discomfort from 2011 investigated the act of bearing witness into areas that are just out of reach.
In 2012 Slechta initiated an ongoing group of non-representational works, which made a departure from previous naturalistic abstractions. Exclusively painting with acrylics directly on a translucent Duralar sheet. It serves as a mask through which light is shined, selectively exposing the light sensitive paper beneath. These photograms, featuring oscillating patterns, lines, and bursts of bold color on a white expanse, vibrantly convey a sense of becoming and impermanence. The nature of the process produces only a single unique, one of a kind piece.
Slechta has shown his work in solo exhibitions at The Rebel Unit Gallery, Santa Ana, CA in 2012 and 2011, and at the Visual Art Gallery in New York. His group exhibitions include those at 825 Gallery, Los Angeles; The Hanger Art Gallery, Santa Monica, CA; and Scrolling New York in Japan, which traveled to five cities in Japan.