Art review: Tamara Sussman at Rosamund Felsen

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In “The Tremble Series,” a short narrative joined with photographs, Tamara Sussman imagines the effects of a local earthquake “only violent in its persistence.” The tremor never exceeds 3.2 on the Richter scale, but it also never stops. It fissures the pavement, uproots plants and tilts foundations, but the people of L.A. simply adapt. Incremental change doesn’t claim the headlines; slow-burning disasters don’t terrorize like fear of the single massive event.

Sussman’s fictional spin has resonance and is the most enduring part of her show at Rosamund Felsen. In this piece as in the others on view, the L.A.-based artist muses on weakness, vulnerability, mistakes made and regretted; but throughout, she compromises emotional intensity by succumbing to the gratuitous (making the text overlaying the photographs unnecessarily tricky to read) or, in the case of her collages, the exhaustively confessional.

Each collage page features an individual letter formed by photographs of posed and arranged arms and legs, combined with text (printed in letterpress) that reads like a diary entry. Grouped together so the pages spell out words (“Little Aches” and “Tremble”), they make a distinctive visual statement from afar, as of childlike, tentative poetry. Up close, however, the accounts of humiliation, yearning and disconnection feel more self-indulgent than innocent.

– Leah Ollman

Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 828-8488, through Nov. 14. Closed Sunday and Monday.