Art Review : Geometric Abstractions From Sally Gall


At G. Ray Hawkins, Sally Gall's black-and-white landscape photographs work against type. Here, place is rendered all but irrelevant. Instead of heightening the beauty of the lagoons of Bali, the vertiginousness of the cliffs of Etretat or the moodiness of the coast of Scotland, Gall transforms these sites into components of her own conceptual schemes.

For a die-hard romanticist, Gall is unusually enamored of geometric abstraction. And so, a patch of water in a grassy field in Harris becomes an inverted triangle of white against black; a pair of mountaintops in Glen Coe is transmuted into a cycle of endless regression; and the famous cliffs at Etretat, seen from above, carve out a near-perfect ellipse.

Gall is also interested in the kind of trompe l'oeil effects generated by reflections in water. In one astonishing scene at Bukit Jata, a mirror image of clouds in a lagoon is so uncanny one cannot be sure the photograph isn't upside down. Trees reflected in the water in Bayou make up another optical illusion; it is impossible to determine where the sinewy trunks end and the wavering reflections begin.

Certainly Gall's favorite visual conceit, however, is freezing fluid or ephemeral forms--a river as sleek and unruffled as a pane of glass; a waterfall as solid as the rocky mass behind it; a line of surf stitched as tightly as a seam. Transforming the dynamic into the static is, of course, photography's mandate; Gall takes this generic truth and transforms it, in turn, into poetry. Admittedly, the work is undercut by Gall's rather formulaic approach to conceptualism--and thereby, to beauty. It is, however, her insistence upon the poetic that redeems it.

* G. Ray Hawkins, 908 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 394-5558, through May 29. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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