"Black Water," a somewhat muddled but nonetheless intriguing installation of digital projections by Northern California-based artist Andrew Ananda Voogel, begins with a short, high-contrast video clip shown on a flat-screen. Little islands arise from a shimmering sea, cargo ships mere blips in the distant water.
We are about to take a trip, one that will be characterized by an urge for perceptual purification.
At Young Projects, Voogel sets a visitor adrift in darkened rooms, starting at the projection of a rock concert where crowds gyrate under an orgy of crimson lights, showers of drifting confetti and cascading balloons. This contemporary ritual space gives way to a literal hall of mirrors.
There the ritual stays pretty but turns dark. Fragments of lighted urban signage are picked out in the manner of a Jack Pierson wall sculpture, the glowing letters spelling out "caste away" – a pointed pun about social status. The text bleeds through a translucent scrim to be reflected in mirrored walls, where you see yourself engulfed.
Next come several pitch-black rooms. It takes time for a visitor's eyes to adjust.
Barely legible images float into view, one by one – an apparently hunched and weeping woman; what appears to be an abstracted head tossed back; the torso of a swimmer laboriously moving through water. Finally, ocean waves lap at the shore. Metaphorically you arrive at one of those little islands captured in the first flat-screen image.
Voogel doesn't sketch a definitive storyline. Instead he conveys an atmospheric narrative of loss, struggle and eventual calm. Highly romantic – think Caspar David Friedrich's paintings of wilderness wandering – he's working in a tradition most commonly associated with such artists as Peter Campus, Bill Viola and Gary Hill.
"Black Water" suffers a bit from awkward execution. A visitor must literally grope his way through the spaces, following floor signs and rope lines. Still, it's enough to make one curious about where the artist's own journey might eventually lead.
Young Projects, Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (323) 377-1102, through March 7. Closed Sat. and Sun. www.youngprojectsgallery.com