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Experimentalist

A New Photograph of a Successful Weapon of War

 

A New Photograph of a Successful Weapon of War, 1970. Cyanotype, gum bichromate print.

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Negative Figure and Moonscape

 

Negative Figure and Moonscape, 1971. Cyanotype, gum bichromate print.

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Fichter has variously described himself as an imagemaker, expressionist, and experimentalist rather than identifying primarily with one artistic medium. He was part of a group of artists—including Eileen Cowin, Darryl Curran, Betty Hahn, Robert Heinecken, and Todd Walker—who in the late 1960s began to experiment with so-called alternative (non-commercial) photographic processes. His experience as a curator at the George Eastman Museum  (1966–68) and as a professor at UCLA (1968–71) strengthened his understanding of historical techniques like the cyanotype (blueprint) and gum bichromate printing, a method that relies on the insolubility of gum arabic to produce painterly effects.

Fichter often combined mediums within a single work in order to convey a range of emotions. Using photographs that he made in camera as well as photograms and images appropriated from mass media, Fichter employed multiple exposures and sandwich printing to produce complex, collage-like compositions embellished with drawing, watercolor, and airbrushing. He also experimented with then new photomechanical printing techniques like Inko dye (a light sensitive dye), lacquer transfer, Verifax transfer, and Xerox printing. The layering of images in Fichter’s work points to the ubiquity of photography, while offering a poetic intervention into a media saturated culture.