Critics’ Picks

Connie Samaras, Edge of Twilight 18, 2011, archival ink-jet from film, 24 x 30".

Los Angeles

Connie Samaras

Armory Center for the Arts
145 N. Raymond Ave.
March 1 - June 9

This comprehensive exhibition of Connie Samaras’s work over the past fifteen years, curated by Irene Tsatsos, includes photographs and videos from six series. Most of the forty-four large color photographs depict land- and cityscapes in the United States and abroad, but two videos included in the series “V.A.L.I.S. (vast active living intelligence system),” 2005, shot in Antarctica, depict living beings, one a seal breathing through a hole in the ice, the other a man, fast asleep in a red snowsuit aboard a plane returning from the South Pole. Though actual human (or animal) life is rarely seen, its presence—that of those inhabiting the scene, the artist behind the camera, and, by proxy, the viewer—is continually invoked in Samaras’s works, whether in sound tracks of breath mingled with waves and engine motors, or in photographs including the glowing nightscapes of “Angelic States-Event Sequence,” 1998–2003, and the jewellike homes of “Edge of Twilight,” 2011.

For Samaras, photography acts as a membrane, a fragile but tough skin between the thing experienced and the one experiencing it, exposing the surrealistic simultaneity of subjectivity and objectivity, of the personal with the environmental, social, economic, and political. As curator Charlotte Cotton puts it in one of the many diverse essays included in the accompanying catalogue, during the 1970s “Samaras was beginning to connect in her life and emergent artistic practice to the enduring mantra of second-wave feminism: The personal is political. As a feminist and an artist, her biography needed to be consciously present in her art.” Three decades on, delivered through various narratives and filtered through the disparate lenses of formalism, feminism, and globalism, this now well-digested idea remains powerful in Samaras’s work, if subtly so, as if nestled within the sensuous layers of light and color, skylines and snowscapes, patiently awaiting discovery.