Sarah Charlesworth (1947–2013) treated photography as a weird science, producing perfectly toned, spectral images. “Natural Magic” (1992–93) is a series of bright, crisply colored Cibachrome prints of isolated objects that appear on stark black fields as if summoned from nothing, like a rabbit from a magician’s hat. Shuffled cards flit in the air. Seven flames float over a candle’s wick. Fire rises from a pair of white-gloved hands. A book, a woman’s body, and heads in profile all appear shrouded in satin. To produce these images as serenely mysterious artifacts, Charlesworth employed an array of manipulations: double exposures, trick lighting, and darkroom wizardry. All the images appear in lacquered oval frames, of the sort used to advertise traveling magic shows in the nineteenth-century, suggesting that Charlesworth saw photography as an arcane art of conjuration. —Brian Droitcour
Pictured: Sarah Charlesworth: Red Veils, 1992–1993, Cibachrome with lacquered wood frame, 44½ by 54½ inches. Courtesy Maccarone, New York.