Stephen Berens

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Carl Berg Gallery (2008)

On the Ground in LA

John Divola, Judy Fiskin, Alex Slade & Stephen Berens

Carl Berg Gallery is pleased to present “On the Ground in LA” an exhibition that examines the works of four artists who employ strikingly different strategies in developing bodies of work that examine the landscape that is Los Angeles. The exhibition will include works by John Divola, Judy Fiskin, Alex Slade and Stephen Berens with work created in four different decades, John Divola (1970’s), Judy Fiskin (1980’s), Alex Slade (1990’s) and Stephen Berens (2000’s).

The Los Angeles landscape is diverse and ever changing providing the artist with a fertile environment to work in.The artists in this exhibition have approached their documentation of this landscape by investigating both its constant evolution as well as its diversity of landscape and architecture.

The show includes photographs made in the 1970s by John Divola of “The Los Angeles International Airport Noise Abatement Zone, (LAXNAZ)" a neighborhood immediately adjacent to LAX that the airport bought out as a noise buffer for new runways in the mid 1970s. Photographed after the houses had been empty for a period of time, the work documents both the lawful (by the city) and unlawful evolutions of these structures. The interior/exterior shots from the ‘Forced Entry” series seem to fluctuate between forensic documents and movie stills while the before and after images from the “House Removals” series reference both urban renewal and the apocalypse.

Judy Fiskin’s early 1980s series “Dingbat” catalogues, in a straight forward, almost clinical fashion, Los Angeles’s vernacular apartment buildings from the 1950s. In direct opposition to the contemporary photographic trend that big is better, these 2 ¾” square photographs force the viewer to look at them at such a close distance that the traditional separation between viewer and image begins to collapse.

Alex Slade’s 1990s series “Vacant Lot” explores transitory spaces in the city that chart the ebb and flow of financial fortunes, shifts in population, and the ephemeral history of neighborhoods. His subjects are entropic places reflecting the natural world, built environment, and human dramas in their chaotic slide towards disorder.

Stephen Berens’ project “75 Photographs of a Lost Dog” tracks the almost manic obsession of a pet owner for his/her missing dog. Photographed in Los Angeles in 2007 this series presents a view of the city restricted to the locations of 75 lost dog posters for the same lost dog. Melancholic, yet humorous, these images record the random distribution of a poster by an individual that seems to parallel the overall random development of the strip malls and neighborhoods that make up the city itself.