Time flies to a dizzying photographic effect in “Considered Interactions”

A gentle confrontation of time and place reverberates through the gallery in ‘Considered Interactions’, on view at Casemore Kirkeby until 28 May. The black and white photographic work of John Divola, Tarah Douglas, Steve Kahn, and Raymond Meeks and Adrianna Ault draw the viewer in with their velvety surfaces and elegant photography tactics. Yet, as one spends more time with work, one’s sense of belonging, one’s memory, and the regular passage of events are accentuated and challenged.

Considered Interactions’ photographic work poignantly addresses time scales and how people imbue meaning with their surroundings. These artists document gestures in eccentric places, on the verge of transition. The dark humor throughout the exhibition underscores the frustrating and curious challenge of seeking to capture something that is already changing. One with the camera and the subject of the image operate in an inescapable choreography of momentum, involving both the physical and the memory of the place.

John Divola, ‘ENSO: 36 Right Hand Gestures,’ 2018

In “ENSO: 36 Right-handed Gestures” by John Divola, constraints guide his practice. In the morning, he drew circles as big as his right hand would allow on the walls of abandoned housing, formerly George Air Force Base in Victorville, California. Bold black spray paint encircles the wrinkles in the walls, falling off with age. Divola’s body inscriptions are part of an archive of marks, one more among the traces of many gestures of the ancient inhabitants of this space, both animated and elemental. The 36 photographs hung in a 12×3 grid are understood as a singular work. Time stutters on the grid, where the edge of the picture plane breaks off each day.

Like Divola, there is a leisurely cadence to the composition of Tarah Douglas’ “Untitled (no. 1-15)”, in which Douglas repeatedly returns to a single place. The white edge of the frame segments each photograph, noting the time gaps. The 15 planes stretch horizontally, like a musical score. Douglas alternates between attending an altar and climbing a steep dune in each photograph. Read in succession, Douglas’ pose moves from circling a group of objects to taking his head between his knees to kneeling near the objects to walk up the hill, continuing through the series. Rather than focusing on the material traces of gestures, it is her physical presence that brings out her emotional struggle and her perseverance.

Steve Kahn, ‘Triptych #3 Mural,’ 1976/2017

Steve Kahn’s richly textured photograph, “Triptych #3 Mural”, is an extension of his work focused on the Hollywood Suites in Los Angeles in the 1970s. Working with a Polaroid camera shows Kahn’s work as an intuitive process during from the shooting and meticulous attention in the cropping of the photograph to this composition. On a large scale, the print reveals the mottled resolution of the original image to signal both the processes and limits of image making. Conceptually, “Triptych #3 Mural” evokes a sense of confinement through its use of perspective. The viewer gazes down into the vastness of the opaque black ground. This dizzying perspective, coupled with the grainy low resolution of the walls, pushes the viewer into a space of dreamlike vertigo, questioning the legitimacy of the image to document some semblance of reality, whatever that may be.

Raymond Meeks and Adrianna Ault, “Winter Auction”, 2019

In the “Winter Auction” series by Raymond Meeks and Adrianna Ault, Bygone farm equipment takes flight in a ritual documented by Meeks and Ault on their family farm. Moving from left to right, the first 5 photographs have a distant horizon line with the object well above the ground. In the last two prints, the perspective shifts downward. Droplets slide off the fork handle, dripping into the water below, creating anticipation. The hoe in the final print splashes through the water, sending ghostly swirls of water through the air, as if her soul is leaving. Engulfed by the accumulation of time, these weathered tools are transformed into unknown objects. As the knowledge and use value of their function becomes obsolete, they sink into the mud.

These photographic works show how the meaning prescribed to a place is at once fickle, casual and sacred. The exhibition examines the desire to document what is already decaying – a seemingly futile gesture to manifest a tangible record of an intangible memory. With a tenor of humour, nihilism and care, the exhibition exonerates our tendency to go around in circles in pursuit of walking straight ahead.

“CONSIDERED INTERACTIONS” runs through May 28 in Casemore Kirkeby, SF. More info here.
All photos courtesy of Casemore Kirkeby.

Michael E. Marquez