Critics’ Picks

View of “Barak Zemer: Transit,” 2018.

Los Angeles

Barak Zemer

Night Gallery
2276 East 16th Street
January 20 - March 3

While the photographs that make up “Transit,” Barak Zemer’s first exhibition at this gallery, are descriptive of people and things, their heavily structured compositions—both as individual images and within the group of pictures—trouble a documentary read of the work. The camera often frames an action or a thing, as in Gate, 2017, which centers on a gleaming model airplane positioned at an airport boarding gate, or Transit, 2017, which shows an eerily bright apple cupped underneath a drinking glass on top of a black faux-leather car dashboard.

Framing takes many forms in these works, whether it comes from the position of the camera, the evenhanded treatment of images from different times, places, and levels of personal connection, or through scale—there are four sizes among the thirteen photographs. Containment devices, as metaphorical extensions of composition, are subjects of special interest and are offered up for comparison: Cliff, 2015, a tightly cropped picture of a huge aquarium with no fish in sight, sits next to Belly, 2016, an image of a domed pregnant stomach topped with ultrasound gel.

That pairing is only the most direct expression of the entire exhibition’s interest in the interplay between the artificial and the natural. Zemer’s work recasts this well-trodden dichotomy in vivid, immediate emotional terms. Note the affectless Hand and Mouse, 2016, which shows a clean white-cuffed, white-skinned hand holding a PC mouse, a highlighter in the foreground. Consider this next to the nearby Mouse, 2016, which could have had the same title: the latter photograph, printed at a monumental scale, shows large, dirty-fingernailed hands proffering a dead rodent to another, more youthful pair of appendages wielding a smartphone, lens trained on the corpse.