The appeal of Caroline Clerc’s large color photographs at the Elephant art space in Glassell Park is immediate: These are gorgeous pictures, epic landscapes of dark stone and vibrant green moss, root thickets and feathery ferns. The pulse quickens at such beauty.
If that wow factor is a clash of cymbals, what follows is a persistent, softly rumbling drum roll, tension held in suspension, unresolved. Clerc’s photographs invoke slight, subtle, spatial confusion. Their rocky cliffs, dense woods, glacial ice -- they all appear equally crisp, distance and scale shifting within each view from obvious to ambiguous.
Stealthily present within each of these still photographs are time and motion. Every image is actually a composite of multiple images made in the course of a walk that the L.A. artist took during a residency in Norway last year. She digitally stitched parts of different photographs together to create a seamless, unified whole that serves as a chronicle of her passage through the landscape. With each rendering representing multiple perspectives simultaneously, the effect is mildly cubist. Mountainsides become faceted planes that angle, dip and recede with a smooth continuity that challenges spatial logic and equilibrium.
Clerc’s work resonates with certain idioms of centuries-old landscape painting as well as the doctored, edge-to-edge hyper-clarity of Andreas Gursky photographs. It feels kin to the practices of Hamish Fulton and Richard Long, who based work on long, solitary, rural walks. Clerc’s images don’t settle easily or quickly in the eye or mind. They straddle the intimate and the majestic. They reconcile the instant and the duration, the found and constructed. They continue to unfurl.
Elephant, 3325 Division St., Los Angeles, (323) 487-3325, through Jan. 30. Open Saturdays and by appointment. www.elephantartspace.com