Critics’ Picks

James Welling, LA-C 27, 1977, silver gelatin print, 5 x 4".

Los Angeles

James Welling

6518 Hollywood Blvd
March 3–March 27, 2016

James Welling’s most recent series of photographs “Choreograph,” 2014–2015, currently displayed at Regen Projects across town, is about dance. But layered behind many of those color-soaked images of dancers in motion is a backdrop of architecture that harkens back to earlier phases of his practice. The language of vernacular architecture in Los Angeles, for instance, was at the forefront of two of his series of black-and-white photographs, “Los Angeles Architecture,” 1976–78, and “Los Angeles, 2003” 2003, on view in this exhibition. The former includes eerie nighttime compositions that highlight small moments in the life of buildings, including a shadow crossing a low concrete wall in LA-C 18, 1977, and an apartment-building number lit by a porch light in LA-C 27, 1977. The latter series presents less sensual, more stoic daytime scenarios, as in Gas Meters, Santa Monica, 2003, and a parked van in Camper, Culver City, 2003.

This focus on the poetics of the ordinary gives way in later works to an interest in broader, more abstract constructions of space, as in Welling’s photographs of Philip Johnson’s iconic building in “Glass House,” 2006–2009. These images were created with colored lens filters, resulting in vibrant but distorted views of the house and its surroundings. The obstructions suggest a subject not fully formed, as if the Glass House were a malleable material that has yet to manifest all its potential. Elsewhere, photographs from 2009 of the Maison de Verre in Paris display beautiful industrial window fixtures and glass-block walls. But it is the interior entryways and passages that spark a revelation: If buildings can conjure all of this movement and energy, then cue the dancers.