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LA CIENEGA AREA

It’s the edge between comforting toyland and slightly scary dream spaces that gives James Casebere’s photographs their clout. He builds all-white tableaux of wood, cardboard and plaster, then lights them evocatively and clicks. The results are black-and-white pictures crowded with objects--from masses of “Watertoys” to rock formations emulating Arches National Monument or a Mexican “Street With Pots.” These congregations are simultaneously playful and eerie, real and unreal, thus emphasizing the perpetually questionable veracity of the medium itself.

We recognize objects in the pictures through their volumes and context, not detail, which scarcely exists. Sometimes we immediately grasp an entire scene of, say, a peaked house and nude trees on a wintry night. Other times the subject builds slowly, as when a stacked assembly of boats seems to emerge from darkness one hull or prow at a time. All this makes for an interesting process of looking and discovering, but Casebere’s work is not just a cool intellectual exercise. He shrouds his tableaux with a softly alluring emotional veil that makes his photographs read as memory pieces, distilled and dramatized. (Richard Kuhlenschmidt Gallery, 9000 Melrose Ave., to July 27.)


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