Des­per­a­tion spills into blank spa­ces

Los Angeles Times - - CULTURE MONSTER - By Leah Oll­man cal­en­dar@la­times.com

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, Ariz., 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 f lu­o­res­cent light­ing, are not at­trac­tive; her canny per­spec­tives make them feel down­right des­per­ate.

She ups the vis­ceral im­pact by print­ing the images 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.

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