What's on Los Angeles | Index

by Jody Zellen

January 10, 2019

Jo Ann Callis, Melinda Gibson and Thomas Sauvin, Carla Jay Harris and Brenda E. Stevenson, Lebohang Kganye, Kovi Konowiecki, B Neimeth, and Martin Parr
Rose Gallery
December 8, 2018 - January 26, 2019

Remembrance, installation view

Successful thematic group exhibitions in gallery spaces are difficult to achieve as it is often not possible to show enough works by each artist to represent their project while creating a dialogue amongst them. In Remembrance, curators Thomas Kollie and Zoe Lemelson have chosen artists and artist teams whose works address the theme of memory and notions of family in far reaching and diverse ways. Jo Ann Callis, Melinda Gibson and Thomas Sauvin, Carla Jay Harris and Brenda E. Stevenson, Lebohang Kganye, Kovi Konowiecki, B Neimeth, and Martin Parr span a range of intentions, ages and geography, yet when seen in relation to each other, their pieces engage in a compelling conversation.

While each artist engages with photography, their approaches to the medium are quite contemporary and go beyond conventional documentation. Bitter Earth, is a collaboration between artist Carla Jay Harris and historian Brenda E. Stevenson. In their installation, they create a space akin to a sitting room with a wall framed images, many selected from the Library of Congress, and another longer wall covered in green floral wallpaper. In front of these is an ornate chair and side table on which sits a formal portrait of Harris' grandmother. Inserted into ovals within the wallpaper pattern are historic photographs of African American women. Harris and Stevenson take what is usually a warm and welcoming space where families would gather and infuse it with the harsher realities of the lives of African Americans. Their installation invites viewers to contemplate the complex history of African American women by creating an installation that is both personal and political.

Lebohang Kganye begins with black and white copies of her own family photographs which she then de- and re- constructs to make both a short film and a series of prints. She cuts out silhouettes and fragments from the original pictures to create small-scale dioramas which are then carefully lit and rephotographed. Her interest in myriad histories — as a combination of truths and fictions— has led her to transform photographs and stories into evocative, open ended narratives where viewers can fill in the blanks.

Lunar Caustic is a series of color photographs by Melinda Gibson and Thomas Sauvin, whose surfaces appear to be in the process of disintegration. Sauvin, a Beijing-based collector and editor rescued a trove of negatives from a recycling area in China—the images were being destroyed for their silver. This archive consists of more than half a million negatives spanning approximately 20 years (1995-2005). In Lunar Caustic, Gibson and Sauvin use these negatives as a point of departure to experiment with the effects of different chemicals on the surface of photographic paper to distort the image, simulating what happened to the negatives. This results in abstracted, colorful, partially recognizable and mysterious images of other's memories— people, families and places— separated from their original context.

B Neimeth and Kovi Konowiecki use photography to record people and places to create narratives that connect past and present. They are interested in the ability of photographs to transcend time and define place. In Konowiecki's Delivering Flowers to Grandpa Jack, he has created a series of photographs about where he grew up— Long Beach, CA— paying tribute to that which is commonplace and often overlooked to show the significance of these elements in everyday life. Within the series, Konowiecki intersperses vintage family photographs to create links between present and past. B Neimeth examines the relationship between the personal and the ubiquitous by looking at the differences between Beverly Hills, FL where her grandmother resides and Beverly Hills, CA.

Also included are black and white images from a collaborative project by Martin Parr and Daniel Meadows entitled June Street, Salford, (1973) and selections from Decor, 2005, a series of pigment prints created by Jo Ann Callis. Both Parr/Meadows and Callis look back in time to present interior spaces that resonate both personally (Callis) and universally (Parr/Martin).

In Remembrance, the curators have carefully selected intriguing and open ended works that illustrate the possibilities within the medium. The works embrace both the analogue and the digital and ask viewers to examine their own relationships to interior and exterior spaces, vernacular and family photographs while thinking about different ways of telling stories and recording history.