Umbra, 1975–79

"I am a visual bilingual, I see in Abstract, and Image. Combining the language of painting and the language of photography one has left the territory of clear distinctions. I want to dissolve the everyday in the river of forgetfulness and arrive on the opposite bank, far from the center; landing at a new place. In looking at our visual landscape I choose elements that add up to a new whole, a visual harmony of "rhyming” shapes creating a visual syntax to view our times. This recombination of diverse elements gives me a place to see our world in a new way. My experience of growing up in Southern California with the work of Karl Benjamin, and John McLaughlin among others was a rich introduction to the abstract painting of this time.”  
Grey Crawford’s Umbra series are black and white silver gelatine prints—photographed throughout the early 1970’s in Southern California and rediscovered in 2017 after being archived for the past 40 years. Drawing upon his classical training from his studies at the Rochester Institution of Technology, Crawford stands out as a unique figure from that time period. This is most evident in his early photographs from the Umbra series, which combine hard edge painters’ Karl Benjamin’s sense of construction with John McLaughlin’s zen-like capacity for reduction. By using the darkroom as his palette, Crawford chooses his selected backgrounds with a Lewis Baltz-like sense of austerity as a means for introducing these hard-edge, abstract shapes and using them as the building blocks for his own language. His darkroom experiments with paper masks, cut specific to each image and shape, differ him from the day’s topographers. These masks are used to allow separate exposures in any area he selects, going from white, through grey tones to solid black. Grey Crawford incorporates these basic geometric shapes and lines into his photographs, creating his own landscapes, almost like a stage for an undefined play.