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In Christian Eckart’s art, landscapes are ghosts of their former selves

In Christian Eckart’s art, landscapes are ghosts of their former selves
Christian Eckart, “Mountain,” 2019, archival digital print on canvas, 66 x 102 inches (Christian Eckart and Wilding Cran Gallery)

If the phrase “boutique hotel chain” doesn’t rub you the wrong way, you may not be bothered by Christian Eckart’s seven new “paintings” at Wilding Cran Gallery in downtown Los Angeles.

Each of the digital images in “White Noise,” the Houston-based artist’s second solo show in Los Angeles, has been printed on canvas. That’s nothing new. Wedding photographers offer their clients similar products, presumably because some couples think that canvas makes portraits look more prestigious, more special.

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To my eye, that’s tacky. And even worse in works that measure 5 feet by 8 feet, sometimes much more.

Christian Eckart, “Clouds,” 2019, archival digital print on canvas, 100 x 100 inches
Christian Eckart, “Clouds,” 2019, archival digital print on canvas, 100 x 100 inches (Christian Eckart and Wilding Cran Gallery)

Eckart’s screensaver-style landscapes would look better on paper, without the weave of the canvas showing through. As images, they’re pretty nifty: a cumulus cloud surrounded by nothing but sky, a waterfall, a glacier, a snow-capped peak, a sunset, the surface of the sea and a view of Earth from outer space.

Eckart is not the person who took any of the photographs. Rather, the gallery news release says, each image was “very carefully sourced from the internet.”

And, as if to ensure that viewers don’t mistake his works for the pretty pictures on nature calendars, Eckart has digitally bleached out nearly all of the color, turning the images into ghostly traces and leaving only a 4-inch band of printed color around their edges, like a frame.

Christian Eckart, “Sunset,” 2019, archival digital print on canvas, 58 x 100 inches
Christian Eckart, “Sunset,” 2019, archival digital print on canvas, 58 x 100 inches (Christian Eckart and Wilding Cran Gallery)

That maneuver makes the clouds in two of the works feel almost sculptural: more palpable and weighty and present than the real thing. It gives the other prints a sense of cool, subdued melancholy. To look at them is to feel as though nature’s most sublime landscapes are disappearing right before your eyes.

That’s a powerful feeling — if it too didn’t dissolve while looking at Eckart’s blown-up pictures, whose peek-a-boo aesthetic would look good in a boutique hotel, or even in a high-end chain.

Wilding Cran Gallery, 939 S. Santa Fe Ave., L.A. Wednesdays-Sundays, through March 17. (213) 553-9190, www.wildingcran.com

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