In the first ever public viewing of fifty photographic prints garnered from Erika Suderburg’s longstanding archived collection of personally captured photographs, the internationally celebrated L. A. based writer and film artist dodges any single interpretation of the intimacies of her personal life. She disdains voyeurism, instead adroitly focusing on viewer participation in the perpetual rearrangement of images from her formerly secret archives.
At about the size of pictures that people share with their friends on Facebook, the 1” square photographic prints in Suderburg’s modular work, “Some Small Groups 1974 - 2009,” seem designed to be displayed in a domestic setting, with portability a priority. Each minute image is isolated against a white background and individually boxed within its own 16” by 20” frame. The collection of photographic prints makes itself at home, hanging out in what was once the study/game room of the gallery’s handsomely repurposed 1920’s dance studio/bungalow.
Suderburg is playfully suggesting that the prints be “grouped in various categories that mutate according to whim, time of day, wind speed, solstice orientation and flights of fancy: Bush, Wheel, Human, Light, Fin, Path, Animal, Rain, Sky, Tree, Water, Nipple, Horizon & Topiary.” Individual images of objects, including what appears to be the hindquarter of a fur bearing animal, are “purposely on the verge of not quite being able to be completely discerned.” Many resemble blurred frames snipped out of strips of moving picture film. Subject to abandonment on the cutting room floor until regrouped or edited, they only partially reveal actions that could possibly lead towards (or away from) any certain climatic, iconic clarification of intentions.
Suderburg’s video installation, “Landscape for il Sassetta,” was still in the planning stage at press time. Purportedly a short loop, designated for a portable LCD player that will be positioned in a disused gas fireplace located in the game room gallery, it will reference the fifteenth century Sienese School painter’s tempera and gold leaf altarpiece, “The Blessed Ranieri Rasini Freeing Poor People from Prison in Florence.” On exhibit at the Louvre, that semi-archaic painting’s center of focus is the Franciscan saint, propelled by what appears to be the tail of a rocket, hovering above citizens captured in various stages of escape. Also enticing is il Sassetta’s depiction of the prison, more closely resembling a movie flat or piece of folded grey cardboard than a solidly built confine. The altarpiece should serve as a worthy subject in Suderburg’s contemporary approach to the contemplative disciplines and interest in the examination of place, habit and aspiration.
If the gallery organized a dialogue focused on its pairing of works by Suderburg and Joey Santarromana, the first inquiries raised might well be focused on “The means by which work engages and is engaged in by the spectator.” At the core of Santarromana’s work is his concern for the biographical, especially in relation to addressing the perception and construction of identities. Santarromana is devoted to examining “how Ideas that are superimposed as concepts on innate feelings and/or beliefs guide the viewer's understanding gaze, both outwardly and inwardly.”
Early in his artistic career Santarromana, experimented with computerized morphing of his own facial features. More recently he has collaborated with the multi-talented musician/composer Bill Roper in live performance and video work, scrutinizing representations of personal history and identity, including issues evolving out of their diverse cultural heritages.
In his newest video installation, “Stare,” Santarromana plans to project two video portraits (that of a woman and a young child) saturated with color and placed adjacent to each other in a darkened room. Standing between the portraits, the viewer will be bathed in light from the projections, simultaneously becoming engulfed in and colored by the work. Since active commitment is demanded in order to maintain objective looking without slipping into the realm of the passive gaze, only by concentrating intensely will viewers be capable of discerning the projected portraits clearly.
In addition to his aptly entitled video installation, Santarromana will be showing an engaging selection of digital prints. Extrapolated from his time-based work, they underscore the artist’s high standards of exactitude and sensitivity to the use of color. Golden yellows, ordinarily associated with rays of sunlight, intermingle with misty grays to activate patterns surging through “note to self” (2007). Although the artist’s collage-like images exhibit a sense of clarity normally attributed to photographic imagery, viewers who credit Santarromana with sharpening their propensity towards active looking may perceive that these prints have been concisely constructed in Photoshop.
Published courtesy of ArtScene ©2010