A native New Yorker, Jonathan Calm is a visual artist in the media of photography and video whose work combines as well as challenges the aesthetic and ideological tenets of architecture, documentary journalism and sculpture. A central theme of his work is the relationship between photography and urban architecture, and the powerful role of images in the way architectural constructs shape the lives of individuals and communities.
The proliferation of photographic imagery online and the sharing of pictures and footage through social media at ever increasing rates have arguably made photography the most important medium of our time, with a creative potential to foster, build and strengthen communal ties. Calm channels and develops his research into an aesthetic vision that features reflective (contemplation- and analysis-based) and interventionist, activist aspects. He explores how technologies of representation determine the cityscape, and uses these technologies to produce images that contribute to the implementation of a more functional, integrated urbanism.
Over recent years, Calm has primarily explored the socio-cultural, historical and geopolitical imprint of public housing on both sides of the Atlantic, tracing the onslaught of the American 'project' back to its European Modernist roots across a palimpsest of visionary theoretical predicates and harsh urban realities, with an eye toward ever more critical reinvention of communal city life. His 'Legacy' series (2010) was inspired by a 2008 research trip - funded by an Art Matters grant - to visit and document local housing complexes in Marseille, and to photograph houses by the great Modernist architects (Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius) whose work spearheaded the utopian conception and development of public housing.
Calm's art practice is international in scope and has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including 'Frequency' at the Studio Museum in Harlem (2005); 'Role Play' at the Tate Britain (2006); 'Black Is, Black Ain’t' at the University of Chicago’s Renaissance Society (2008); 'Streetwise' at the Reina Sophia Museum in Madrid (2008) and the Chelsea Art Museum (2011); 'deCordova Biennial’ at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum (2013); and 'Rooted Movements' at LMAKprojects in New York City (2014). Numerous publications, among which The New York Times, Art in America, The New Yorker, The Village Voice, Artforum and The Washington Post, have given significant mention to his work.