Critics’ Picks

Kate Johnson, Untitled #16, 2010, Lambda print mounted on aluminum, 36 x 48”.

Kate Johnson, Untitled #16, 2010, Lambda print mounted on aluminum, 36 x 48”.

Los Angeles

Kate Johnson and Siri Kaur

Garboushian Gallery
427 North Camden Drive
January 15–February 12, 2011

At once minute and cosmic, the spacey photographic investigations in this exhibition play with both scale and trajectory, exerting a subtle push-pull on the viewer’s vision. The artists practice the chemistry-and-glass wonderment of early photography, perhaps all the more poignantly for having learned the lessons of Hubble, Google, and Adobe.

For the series “More Than or Equal To,” 2010, Kate Johnson enclosed her camera in small mirrored fun houses, producing images of kaleidoscopic infinities. Yet visible on almost every pane is the black spot of the camera’s aperture, impounding light and drawing our vision back to earth. Indeed, this indefinitely redirected gaze is ultimately trapped, resting only on the seams between the panes of mirror—as in Untitled #16, where a beige exterior space breaks through—and on the matte fact of the photo-object itself.

Siri Kaur’s photos tend toward another possibility: that of interior reflection propelled outward. Though a couple of Kaur’s images are actual astronomical photographs made through a telescope (Defunct Russian Spy Satellite Gemini Arrangement #224RZ with Horsehead Nebula Barely Visible in Background, 2009, for example), these seem closed and timid compared with the lyric series “Darkroom Experiments,” 2009. Film grain and chemistry become stars and nebulae; in Clouds (Darkroom Experiment #1), photo wizardry thrusts us into the middle of a brilliant stellar wash. Another perceptual meditation, the diptych On the Left, Aurora Borealis, White Horse, Yukon, March 31 2008, 235 AM. On the Right, the Way I Wanted It to Look, 2008, seems to say it all.