Art review: ‘Street Sight’ at Armory Center for the Arts


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Building on its L.A.-centric retrospectives of Robert Rauschenberg and Steve Roden, the Armory Center for the Arts presents “Street Sight,” a thoughtful look at L.A. photography in the 1960s and ‘70s. Specifically, the show charts the shift away from traditional street photography to the more dispassionate, process-oriented approach of the New Topographics movement. However, the 15 featured artists exhibit a distinctly L.A. spin, finding unexpected beauty in environments shaped by car culture.

Ed Ruscha’s 30 aerial views of parking lots reveal a delicate fish-bone pattern in the white lines that mark the spaces. Robbert Flick’s rigorously composed images of parking garages are strikingly moody, and in Graham Howe’s crisp images of Palm Springs, curls of highway slice through the desert like snakes.


The architecture of the Southland receives similar scrutiny. Seymour Rosen’s portraits of storefront churches record the opportunistic mixing of crosses and commerce. Judy Fiskin’s tiny prints of apartment buildings with cross-like facades feel like small devotional offerings. And textured with a grain that suggests graphite drawing, Grant Mudford’s delicate photographs of sun-baked sidewalks, cinderblock walls and other non-places are surprisingly tender.

Despite the almost scientific rigor imposed by this style of photography, the resulting images often celebrate sights we still find ugly and plain. They reflected a new aesthetic in their own time; they now call attention to a beauty we have yet to fully appreciate.

-- Sharon Mizota

Armory Center for the Arts, 145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, (626) 792-5101, through Sept. 11. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Photos, from top: Robbert Flick, ‘77159-21,’ 1977. Credit: Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Grant Mudford, ‘Los Angeles,’ 1976/printed 1980. Credit: Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica.