Critics’ Picks

Lauren Marsolier, Empty Pot and Shadow, 2015, pigment ink print, 30 x 24''.

Lauren Marsolier, Empty Pot and Shadow, 2015, pigment ink print, 30 x 24''.

San Francisco

Lauren Marsolier and Rachelle Bussières

Robert Koch Gallery
49 Geary Street 5th Floor
July 7–September 3, 2016

Lauren Marsolier’s photographs are unreal. Or perhaps too real. The LA-based artist deconstructs and then reassembles photographs of various places—including industrial sites, gardens, roads, and office parks—to create fictive places. The seven composites on view defy the laws of nature: impossibly bright, but few shadows. More Citizenfour (2014) than film noir, these pictures promise transparency but reveal nothing. Even the messy evidence of humans is curiously sterile: Stained mattresses outside a building in Two Roads (Diptych) and spray-painted plywood in Empty Pot and Shadow, both 2015–16, are emptied of physical substance.

Like Lewis Baltz’s 1970s industrial parks, Marsolier finds aesthetic satisfaction in sharp corners and sparse landscaping. This visual pleasure is undercut by an eerie anonymity. What happens in these buildings? Baltz said they could be manufacturing anything, “pantyhose or megadeath.” Today, the blank stare of white stucco and black windows suggest drones and other covert ops.

Marsolier’s technique is flawless. The composites form a convincing, if uncanny, picture of the world, while the high-resolution prints seem to disappear behind Water White glass in an experience of unmediated vision.

The gallery also presents fourteen unique gelatin silver prints by San Francisco–based Rachelle Bussières. The chemical colors and hard edges recall Alison Rossiter’s cameraless experiments with expired photographic paper, but Bussières’s images begin with negatives. “Strata” refers to the geologic features that Bussières photographs and to the darkroom manipulations that give these images a collage-like feel. In contrast with Marsolier’s cut-and-paste fictions, Bussières layers a fairy-tale realm on top of the real world. Together, the two shows test the limits of photographic realism.