Our class trip to Los Angeles with Hanru was an eye opening and inspiring experience. I had never been to LA before and was unsure of what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised. We saw a wide variety of exhibitions ranging from emerging artists in the galleries of Culver City and Santa Monica to well established artists at the Getty Museum, LACMA, and MOCA. As a photographer there was much to see and there were many artists whose work I found interesting. I enjoyed visiting MOCA and the galleries in Santa Monica the most.
One of the main highlights of the trip for me was seeing the photographs of my professor and mentor Hank Wessel Jr in the show Under the Big Black Sun at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, and at The Getty Museum. Wessel’s photos really capture the essence of his process, which he teaches to his students. His work is about seeking unexpected and unfamiliar moments, which is something I have learned from him to put into my own practice of photography. Seeing Hank’s work on the walls of such prestigious museums like the Getty and MOCA made me feel honored to know him and very lucky to have been fortunate to study with him. He has been the most significant and influential person to my photographic practice. Hank has facilitated my understanding of how sacred each person’s process is and what my work is about.
Overall, the exhibition Under the Big Black Sun seemed a bit disconnected. I guess the string that tied the works together was the fact that they were all made during the same time period during the 1970’s. Some of the work I found compelling, some of the work was boring, while others were offensive. Richard Misrach’s Desert Images, Ed Rucha’s Cities in Question, John Divola’s Zumba Series, and Lewis Baltz’s The New Industrial Parks moved me. John Divola’s photographs depict abandoned, destroyed, and graffiti filled buildings with open widows that look out onto the ocean. This series was also being shown at the Luisotti Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. After seeing Lewis Baltz’s photographs I found his book Candlestick Point in the reading room at MOCA Geffen. This book was filled with images that were influential and gave me some good ideas for my new series of photographs I am working on.
At The Museum of Contemporary Art I enjoyed seeing Marc Rothko’s paintings and Alberto Giacometti’s sculptures. I came across a quote by Giacometti that resonates very close to what my own work strives to do. He said, “What is important is to create an object capable of conveying the sensation as close as possible to the one felt at the sight of the subject.” Marc Rothko said, “I paint large pictures because I want to create a state of intimacy. A large picture is an immediate transaction; it takes you in. While standing in front of his paintings, especially Purple Brown 1957 and Red Violet Over Red 1959, I was immediately consumed by the colors in front of me and the subtle transition from one to the next. His work reminded me of the effect my father’s large abstract paintings have on me.
The Peter Fetterman Gallery and the Rose Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica had some of my favorite works I saw on this trip. The Peter Fetterman Gallery was showing photographs by Steve McCurry, Jerry Uelsman, and Patti Sammllahti. Steve McCurry’s images were filled with vivid luscious color and made you feel as though you were actually in the place that the photo was taken. It was amazing to see the surreal images of Jerry Uelsman whose images were layered in a traditional darkroom years before the invention of Photoshop. The real highlight at the Fetterman Gallery was my introduction to Finnish photographer Patti Sammlahti, whose work blew me away. It was refreshing to see that someone still follow in the tradition of “The Decisive Moment”. His photographs were simple, poignant, and beautiful. The light in his work was stunning and ethereal. My favorite was a snow-covered scene with a man dressed in black walking down a road with a hazy background of winter skeletons of trees. The soft subtle light reflected off the snow made the landscape glow.
At the Rose Gallery I saw for the first time up close the amazing photographs of Elger Esser. The show was filled with large, vast landscapes where the water meets the land along the banks of the Nile River. The color palate is unusually warm, almost amber, which give the photos a very calm and inviting feel to them. I was familiar with some of his work, but had never seen this series or stood in front of his massive and delicate prints. Quite a different experience compared to seeing his images in a book. This show inspired me to play around with a warm color palette for a new series of photographs I am making the captures where industrial landscapes meet the water. I have thought a lot about the question that Hanru asked me about how I see my work in relation to the contemporary art world. Initially I responded that I saw myself as more in the modernist tradition, however I feel that applies mostly to my process and not my subject matter. I do see myself as more contemporary in the subject matter that my work is exploring right now.