Donnie Molls: Oral Histories / CMay Gallery, Los Angeles

CMAY Gallery in Los Angeles presents Donnie Molls’ inaugural solo exhibition, “Oral Histories”, delving into his family’s century-old migration from Mexico to Los Angeles. With no photographic records, Molls crafts a narrative using AI-generated images, shifting from traditional photographic techniques to AI-driven creations. Molls intertwines his family’s oral stories with his visual narrative, evolving his process over two decades. Previously using hybrid photographic methods, Molls now embraces AI, treating its outputs akin to his former photographic negatives. While relinquishing some control, Molls maintains artistic direction, employing AI as a tool to redefine reality, bridging photography and painting in his distinctive artistic expression. The exhibition runs until March 30, 2024.

Donnie Molls: Oral Histories / CMay Gallery, Los Angeles. Opening reception, February 24, 2024.

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Exhibition text:

CMAY Gallery is pleased to present Los Angeles based artist Donnie Molls in his first solo exhibition at the gallery. The exhibition, “Oral Histories”, explores Molls’ history from his mother’s side of the family who migrated from Mexico to Los Angeles over 100 years ago. Some years later Moll’s family migrated to Northern California and much of his family’s history in Los Angeles in only known thought stories told to him by his mother, grandparents and extended family. No photographs existed from this time so when Molls decided to create a new series of paintings from this family history in Los Angeles he decided to use Artificial Intelligence to help create them.

From the family’s orals histories Molls began to frame concept of his own family’s life in Los Angeles. Molls developed his own visual narrative through these works using his own words to describe the stories told to him by his family. This newly created narrative forms the basis of his own story of a family history. Created very much in the same process he has used for the last two decades with the twist of an AI generated image.

Molls has been using a hybrid photographic techniques to help create his paintings for over two decades. In this process photograph serves as a drawing to create the underlying structure of the painting. This multistep process initially started with a negative, an image he would take with a conventional film camera. Once the image has been created, he would then enlarge the it in his custom darkroom onto the surface of a canvas that he prepares with an emulsion. This resulting image becomes the starting of his painting process. With the advent of digital photograph Molls adapted his process to this new medium. In this new process, Molls still takes his own photographs but instead of using a film camera Molls captures his images using a digital camera and then creates his own negative through digital printing technique. After this point remaining process of painting remains exacted the same.

The paintings in “Oral History” are made yet through another evolution in his image making process. Now instead of creating his images with a digital camera he now produces them through “Artificial Intelligence” or AI. Once the AI image has been created he treats them very much the same way as his previous artwork: he creates a negative which is then enlarged onto a canvas surface using a convention photo enlarger and photographic emulsion. Like before this is the starting point before any paint in applied to the surface of the canvas. Molls’ paintings have always existing between the worlds of photography and painting supporting each other to form Molls’ unique artistic expression. In “Oral Histories” Molls redefines his own process no longer relying on his own photographic eye or viewpoint but rather on a narrative that he feeds into the AI program.

At this point editing image as it is with conventional methods of photography become paramount. Although the images are no longer fully created by the exiting his control of what he makes and which images he used is still under his own control. Like the Camera Obscura, Ai has become a tool for the artist to create new perceptions of reality.

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