Critics’ Picks

Sean McFarland, Light, Space, Time Assemblage, 2019, three-channel video projection, color, silent, 3 minutes.

Sean McFarland, Light, Space, Time Assemblage, 2019, three-channel video projection, color, silent, 3 minutes.

San Francisco

Sean McFarland

Casemore Kirkeby
1275 Minnesota Street #102
January 11–February 29, 2020

A highlight of Sean McFarland’s latest body of work is the sole video he produced for the exhibition “4.5 billion years a lifetime.” Displayed alone in a small space next to the main gallery, Light, Space, Time Assemblage, 2019, frames a large rock off the California coast and the waves gently crashing around it. The work's three-minute loop is composed of a trio of superimposed single-color projections: The red, green, and blue versions overlap but never perfectly synchronize, giving the otherwise tranquil image a hallucinatory effect. As the individual projectors are turned on at the beginning of the day, the versions start out mostly aligned. But the slight delays between the starting times of each projection compound over the course of the day; the projections slowly fall out of sync, and the colors dissociate. This technical fragmentation echoes a much larger one: The pictured geologic formation may have once been part of the coastline, but over time, due to erosion and shifts in the tectonic plates beneath it, it became detached from the mainland, and now we see it as just one of many rocks dotting the Pacific.

Time is slippery in other works on view as well. Ten intimate black-and-white images of landscapes stylistically echo early photographs by Lewis Baltz and Robert Adams: Small in scale, they are carefully cornered in their mats and outlined in graphite, underscoring their lives as objects. McFarland has doubly exposed or dodged each picture to distort the horizon; his edits shift the timescale from the measurable length of the exposure to something longer and more ambiguous, challenging the veracity of the photographic moment. With an image of a pale aspen silhouetted against the dark, or a glacial erratic whose surface has been weathered over centuries, McFarland shows how the camera tries and fails to make sense of the lifetime of nature.