Art review: Mark Flores at the Hammer Museum


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One of the best Hammer Museum lobby wall installations in recent memory, Mark Flores’ “See This Through” dynamically addresses the twin functions of its site. The expansive walls border a broad staircase that brings visitors from the street or parking structure up into the museum’s courtyard, from which they can reach the main galleries and theater. The lobby walls define an area of passage and transition, not just from one place to another, but ideally, as in this case, from one state of mind to another.

Flores uses the space to chronicle a journey of his own, walking the length of Sunset Boulevard. He photographed along the way, and used the pictures as source material for 99 painted panels of different sizes arrayed from floor to ceiling across the walls as a layered, free-form, open mosaic. Some of the images — of a stairway, door, elevator, surveillance camera — echo elements in the Hammer space and reiterate the notion of passage. Others show flowers, sunlight through trees, sidewalk cracks and the familiar icon of the walking figure on traffic signals, true to scale or radically enlarged. What Flores represents feels less important than how he represents it. He oscillates between tight naturalism, a looser, brushier style, and a magnified version of printed matter composed of layered colored dots. A single subject might span a dozen panels, shifting among these modes of depiction.


A pastel drawing of the sea hangs separately, near the elevator, and a slide show of Flores’ photographs plays continuously as part of the installation, but both feel superfluous. The paintings bring home vividly enough the notion that visual information reaches us in vastly different forms and we process it in equally diverse ways. Visuality — like the discontinuous urban landscape — is not fixed but fluid, ever in flux, and never complete. An excellent reminder and opportunity to recalibrate on the way to the galleries. -- Leah Ollman

Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., (310) 443-7000, through April 14, 2011. Closed Monday.

Images: Hammer Projects: Mark Flores. Installation view at the Hammer Museum. Photography by Brian Forrest.