Farrah Karapetian at Sandroni Rey

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Farrah Karapetian works inventively with photography’s elemental ingredients — light and time. In her show at Sandroni Rey, the recent UCLA MFA presents striking, memorable work, alongside efforts that haven’t quite gelled.

A DVD projection visualizing the artist as human sundial, for instance, starts with a nice concept but realizes it in a slight and tedious way. Another video, viewed through an actual car door mounted on the wall, feels under-conceived and overproduced.

The centerpiece, in terms of scale and interest, is “Stowaway,” a stunning six-panel photogram that spans 20 feet in width.

Photograms are physical traces, made by placing an object directly on sensitized paper and exposing it to light; his one, depicting a soda truck with a passenger amid the cargo, is necessarily life-size, a ghost image in translucent graphite tones. Karapetian has constructed the scene more like a metaphor than a record, absenting the driver and setting individual bottles in rows on shelves rather than in cases. The man stands among them in gleaming white silhouette, an emblem of displacement.


Karapetian’s fascination with surveillance and the hidden comes across as well in a series of photograms of signs, notices that the premises are being videotaped or patrolled. She double- or triple-exposes the prints so that each sign overlaps itself in a disorienting stutter or, in the case of “Caution,” spelling a darkly poetic epigram.

Two signs warning drivers of people crossing the freeway on foot — horrifically absurd responses to illegal immigration to begin with — overlap to suggest the word “‘cautionaut,’” an apt description of one who travels through dangerous space.

Sandroni Rey, 2762 S. La Cienega Blvd., (310) 280-0111, through Oct. 24. Closed Sundays and Mondays.\

--Leah Ollman

Above: Stowaway Photo credit: Courtesy of Sandroni Rey gallery