Art review: Kelly Barrie at LAXART
Inspired by the adventure playgrounds of his London youth, Kelly Barrie’s haunting photographs at LAXART document a different kind of free-form play. Created by manipulating phosphorescent powder on his studio floor and photographing the results, the four white on black images each depict a different piece of equipment: a climbing net, a ladder, a tunnel and a pyramid. But unlike the generic, lawsuit-avoidance devices known as playgrounds today, these pieces are strictly DIY: the ladder is an asymmetrical network of rough, irregularly shaped pieces of wood; the tunnel a concrete drainpipe full of graffiti. As executed by Barrie — roughly scraped or traced with fingers or feet — the images are direct evidence of play, like finger painting. On another level, they appear to emanate from a memory that is as visceral as it is visual.
In this way, Barrie speaks to the powerful physical memories created by early experiences and offers an elegy to a wilder notion of childhood, in which freedom was more important than safety. Graffiti inscribed on the tunnel wistfully captures the paradox of such an education: “Repeat after me: I am free.”
-– Sharon Mizota
LAXART, 2640 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 559-0166, through Dec. 18. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.laxart.org
Images: Reclaimed Sewer Pipe (top) and Double Toe Rope Netting. Courtesy of the artist and LAXART.