Gallery Luisotti is pleased to announce our group show Five Southern California Views. The exhibition brings together varied perspectives on the contemporary landscape, as not just a moment in time and point on the map, but a place on the brink of momentous change and teeming with unanswered questions. In unique ways, each image defies expectations or what one believes to be possible. The show celebrates four decades of work from gallery artists, inciting conversation between John Divola’s Portfolio Five Prints (1987), Mark Ruwedel’s Moving Rocks (2000), Christina Fernandez’s Sereno (2006-2010), Ron Jude’s Other Nature (2009), and CJ Heyliger’s VVVVVVVVVVVVV (2020-2022).
Fernandez’s image End of Road is positioned where the asphalt halts, looking over nondescript beige apartment buildings towards the cloud-studded horizon. There is a sense that the tagged guardrail is an insufficient barrier, as if the unkept shrubbery were encroaching upon the pavement, or vice versa, a car could come at any moment and crash down onto suburbia. Taken on meditative walks with her young son around the East Los Angeles neighborhood of El Sereno, Fernandez’s series speaks to the impending changes faced by the community, those brought on by gentrification and the 2008 sub-prime mortgage crisis.
Heyliger’s VVVVVVVVVVVVV, taken at the rim of a seaside bluff, also swells with imminence, though on a physical and material, not social order. The waves will shortly break, and the sunlight is so intense that it is about to turn black. The artist’s technique entails overexposing film to such an extent that negative becomes positive, a process known as solarization. These uncanny, yet meditative seascapes blur the line between abstraction and reality.
In a similar vein, Ruwedel’s Moving Rocks #8 (The Racetrack) defies common sense. The wind blows strong enough to push the rock across the desert lake bed’s scaly surface, leaving behind a tender impression. This can happen, according to scientists, when freezing rains form an ice sheet just thin enough for the rock to slip over its surface. In addition to venturing into otherworldly environments, spaces bound only by geological time, Ruwedel captures traces of civilization and layers of history in Southern California’s natural surroundings.
Jude takes us into more phantastic territory with Other Nature, vignettes taken from the neglected spaces amid Los Angeles’s urban sprawl. In Pasadena, CA, a voluminous dry bramble almost consumes an entire gas station, leaving just the tip of its awning visible. Pismo Beach, CA, also upsets logic and reason. Even though we can visibly see “OFF,” current somehow flows through the circuit, although it is not the bulbs, but the switches that glow like embers. The processes of dream work characterize Jude’s work, namely those of displacement and condensation, in which mundane objects are invested with threatening feelings or appear in unfamiliar settings.
The rich golden-yellow of the switches resonates with the Day-Glo tones in Divola’s Portfolio Five Prints. In one photograph from the set, an all-pink horizontal silhouette of a person levitates in the middle of a thicket. The title, Flying/Falling, points to an unsettling ambiguity: like a Wittgensteinian duck-rabbit drawing, the figure’s orientation is unclear. The person could be flying towards the camera or falling face down. Perception is kept on the verge.
Situated at the intersection of conceptual art and photography, all five artists do not just document a specific place but address a larger set of ideas.