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Ken Fandell
Traywick Contemporary, Berkeley, California
Review by Bill Lasarow

Ken Fandell, "Blowout 457, 461, 480, 542, 548, 551, 552, 555, 556, 557, 641, 642, 648, 649, 651, 652, 653, 659, 660, 679, 680, 682, 687, 707, 708, 711, 712, 713, 727, 728, 735–741, 760, 763, 764, 767, 769, 770, 772, 785," 2017, unique archival print

Continuing through May 27, 2017

The first pair of large works on paper flanking either side of the gallery entry are images of rough gestural circles with sprays of fine lines and splatters of what is probably charcoal with strategic use of acrylic. Once you notice the patterns the association with tire tread becomes apparent and everything begins  to change. Ken Fandell is, after all, a photographer, and these tires, one of three small series of "Blowouts Bricks Lines," are in fact obsessively integrated layers and details of numerous shots taken of a decimated truck tire retrieved from the side of a freeway. It's the ethos of traditional junk assemblage done differently.

The "Lines" series are the thin trunks of iconic LA palm trees, sans their crowns and bases.  They run vertically like a single freehand stroke set against a light gray ground that is not quite flat because it is an overcast sky. How you see Fandell's images up close versus from more than ten feet away is a big deal. The layered photographs do not just reveal the details of the trees' surface for the umpteenth time; they mimic the mark-making of an artist's hand.  

The "Bricks" rely most explicitly on the art historical trope of cubism, prompting the idea of visualizing the object on a flat surface across space and time. The ghostly transparency of the layers tempts the eye with a maze to trace the original form of the banal objects as though solving a computer game puzzle. But the real point and achievement of Fandell's painstaking practice is that, as easy as each image is to take in during those first moments, when you stay with them the angles from which you mentally play with each one, particularly the "Blowouts," provide fresh experience that keeps opening you eyes and your heart to the whole.

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