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Art review: 'The Moveable Landscape' at Duncan Miller

June 25, 2010 |  7:00 pm

300.Falcons_Den_(C)Ben_Nixon The four photographers in "The Moveable Landscape" at Duncan Miller have several things in common: all live and work in the Bay Area; all shoot film (rather than digital) and make their own prints; all concentrate on the physical landscape in their work; and none has had substantial exposure in L.A. Their work meshes easily and makes for a pleasant group show with a few interesting surprises.

The standout, both visually and conceptually, is Ben Nixon, who uses an unwieldy, long-obsolete process (wet plate collodion) to make gorgeous, cloudy-edged prints reminiscent of the great Western landscape photographers of the 19th century. He titles one spectacular image of a rock face at Yosemite in homage to Carleton Watkins. In another, a more intimate detail of a crack in the ground, he pays tribute to the 20th century photographic poet Frederick Sommer. Nixon is in open dialogue with the past, and most acutely with time itself. He captures the beautiful irregularities of ever-changing nature through a method that invites beautiful irregularities of its own in the application by hand of wet emulsion on glass plate negatives.

Amy Auerbach too makes use of an unusual technique — shooting (on land) with an underwater camera sealed inside a plastic bag filled with water. However suggestive of the bend and flux of an aqueous perspective, however, her pictures of woozy industrial stacks and the Brooklyn Bridge gone slack don’t measure up to the inventiveness of her method.

400.The_Ferryman_(C)Monica_Denevan Monica Denevan and Rolfe Horn (who both appeared years ago at the sadly defunct White Room Gallery) anchor the show with images of pristine, distilled elegance. Denevan shoots in Burma with a keen eye for pattern, reflection and contrast, tempered slightly by the photographic conventions of travel exotica and fashion-shoot perfection. Horn’s landscape images range from postcard pretty to a more refined aesthetic of purity and stillness  His picture of a waterfall in Japan reads like minimalist calligraphy, a meditative, edge-to-edge field of pale, downward strokes.

-- Leah Ollman

Duncan Miller Gallery, 10959 Venice Blvd., L.A., (310) 838-2440, through Aug. 7. Closed Sundays through Wednesdays.

Images: Ben Nixon's Falcon's Den, City of Rocks (top) and Monica Denevan's The Ferryman, Burma. Courtesy of Duncan Miller Gallery.