Review: Pictures by Augusta Wood cross time zones
Time acts not as a fixative but a solvent, the novelist Julian Barnes has written. Under its power -- and what, ultimately, is not under time’s power? -- memory proves fluid, unreliable.
The same goes for photographic memory. However fixed an image from the album or archive appears, every photograph remains a partial, slippery thing, its meaning conditional.
Augusta Wood’s photographs at Angles operate on these assumptions with a quiet and convincing power. Wood, based in L.A., projects family pictures from across the decades atop one another onto the white wall of her studio and photographs the layered results.
The prints made from these projections achieve a kind of photographic veracity-cum-emotional realism unattainable by each component image alone. They are true to the temporal dynamism of memory, how the past is perceived through the present, the present inflected by the past.
“Garden (1976, 2012, 2013)” combines views of the land beside Wood’s family home in New England from three different years, each taken during a different season. A woman peruses the summer’s leafy yield among vegetable rows while nearby, in a luminous overlay, another woman stands upon a thin dusting of snow. Dried autumn leaves edge both scenes.
While we’re rarely made privy to the identities of the characters in the pictures, Wood seems to approach them with the same sense of simultaneity: we see them at discrete seasons of their lives, different ages, all at once. The continuum of time is compressed, folded in on itself.
In “Tan Lines (1975, 1988, 2013, 2013),” a young child stands at the foot of a staircase presenting her bare white bottom to the camera, while another girl, facing us, stands by. They share the space but clearly date from different eras, their union mildly jarring and intriguing, like the slightly off-register doubling of the banister’s grillwork. In the frame’s upper right hangs a convex mirror, reminiscent of the one in Van Eyck’s Arnolfini wedding portrait, reflecting a swollen view of the artist’s position as observer.
“Robin Holding Jonas (1977, 2011, 2013)” is a hushed beauty. A woman kneels on the floor with a child in her arms. The rest of the space reads like a gently fractured Vermeer, a splintered montage of shadowed planes and side-streaming light.
Ghost traces hover in Wood’s pictures. The generations gather from worlds both black-and-white and color. People and objects repeat themselves, stuttering across time. Internal rhymes and clues, triggers, puns and poignancies turn these ordinary domestic scenes into something more broadly interesting: vigorous assertions of memory’s nature as construction, projection and echo.
Angles Gallery, 2754 S. La Cienega Blvd., (310) 396-5019, through May 31. Closed Sunday and Monday. www.anglesgallery.com
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