German artist Annette Kelm is known for making neatly arranged, blankly lighted photographs of common, if often quirky objects: flowers, buildings, textiles, hats, automobiles, clocks and the occasional human being. Technically speaking, the works in her show at Marc Foxx fall in the same objective vein: each depicts a handful of iron shavings scattered across a flat surface. The effect, however, is to nudge the photographs in the direction of calligraphic ink drawings. Indeed, you have to examine the works quite closely to realize that they are photographs at all.
They’re intriguing, if not especially satisfying pictures. The bland, white light flattens the shavings into dry, amorphous smudges, such that they seem to waver between a graphic and photographic reality. The oppressively pallid background colors, however — a dull range of off whites, baby blues and pinks — drain what life the forms might have generated, leaving them feeling neither spontaneous nor crafted but awkwardly accidental.
The inclusion, among the iron shaving images, of two photographs depicting spare, drooping flower arrangements underscores the associations with Japanese calligraphy. Otherwise, however, the conceptual raison d’être runs thin: a compelling formal experiment, but little more.
Marc Foxx, 6150 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 857-5571, through June 23. Closed Sunday and Monday. www.marcfoxx.com