Critics’ Picks

John Houck, Nested If, (From the series A History of Graph Paper), 2014, archival pigment print, 27 x 33".

John Houck, Nested If, (From the series A History of Graph Paper), 2014, archival pigment print, 27 x 33".

Los Angeles

“Eternal Om”

metro pcs
422 Ord Street 2nd Floor, Suite D
April 17–May 24, 2014

Casting the satori moment of enlightenment between the banality of daily experience and the grander slopes of memory, artist-curator Ian James selected works—mostly from LA–based studio photographers—that tightly reference each other even while varying widely along two axes, between sincerity and sarcasm, between memory and the ever-present everyday.

Towards the show’s more earnest end are the works of Tarrah Krajnak, Seth Lower, and John Houck, which play heavily on individual narrative and history by relying on personal subject matter, as well as manipulation, rephotography, and studio staging strategies which invest the camera with an almost X-ray-like ability to mine the occluded and unseen. The works dealing with the everyday congregate, unsurprisingly, on the sarcastic end of the spectrum, whether in a series of images on vinyl by Asha Schechter, or in Bertrand Dezoteux’s live-action video Txerri, 2011, in which a pair of lewd CGI swine—symbols of Europe’s forgotten carnivalesque past—ravage a Basque village: a bland Continental anytown, complete with terrible capri pants, bored children, and dull cafés. The video’s sound track, primarily porcine squealing and grunting, dominates the space. In contrast, Schechter’s subtle interventions go almost unnoticed: images of pencils, ball caps, lettuce—even a lonely e-cigarette—scattered across the walls. Despite interrogating a cultural landscape that’s American, not European (as in Dezoteux’s piece), Schechter’s images also attempt to portray the bland reality of sullen first-world ennui.

Meanwhile, Katie Shapiro’s aggressively formal works—layers of printed, rescanned, and rephotographed images—investigate the embodied photographic self, and Schechter’s large, perforated window-film print, installed directly on the gallery windows, features tweaked layers of material from his earlier work. Schechter’s reuse and rescanning ultimately connects his work back to the iterative processes embraced by Shapiro, Houck, and Krajnak. Between their works—the measured poise of studio photographs and the chaos of Txerri—James has balanced his exhibition in a near-perfect eternal present.