Review: Austin Irving photographs spaces with no exit


The nine color photographs in Austin Irving’s absorbing show at Wilding Cran read as existential propositions as much as visual documents. Each is shot looking through a doorway or into a hallway, but none of the spaces promise passage. They all recede into what seem like dead ends, suffocating cul-de-sacs of glaring banality.

One site photographed in Eagle Rock (all are titled by location and some by function as well) shows a door absurdly set in a wedge-tight corner. Kafka must have served as architectural consultant; the situation reeks of futility. A Texaco rest stop in Ehrenberg, Az., could pass as an interrogation facility or perhaps an abattoir. Its gray-tiled walls seem designed to be hosed clean of evidence.

Throughout, the L.A.-based Irving focuses on surfaces insistently generic, bureaucratically bland and bleak, absent all niceties of fine detail or ornamentation. The spaces, characterized by industrial carpet and fluorescent lighting, are not attractive; her canny perspectives make them feel downright desperate.


She ups the visceral impact of the images by printing them large (most are 4-by-5 or 6 feet), with a matte surface. Mounted on thin aluminum-composite panels and unframed, their spaces feel nearly continuous with our own. We experience them bodily, not just visually, as if stage sets dense with metaphorical implication.

Wilding Cran Gallery, 939 S. Santa Fe Ave., (213) 453-9000, through June 27. Closed Sunday and Monday.