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Art review: Liza Ryan at William Griffin

September 17, 2010 |  9:30 am

A strong poetic impulse drives Liza Ryan’s work -- a scrutiny of slight gestures, momentary convergences, incidental visual rhymes. Over the years, the L.A. photographer has crafted poignant and nuanced bodies of imagery from the familiar. She has also amplified the ordinary and everyday in ways that feel precious and overstated.


Her new photographs at William Griffin oscillate between those same two extremes. In “Exploded Moment” (also the title of the show), Ryan conjures an ephemeral richness, a fleeting optical and emotional intensity out of strips of disparate photographs collaged together into a panoramic expanse. The piece has a radiant gold nucleus (comprised of pictures of light gleaming through leaves) that hovers, promisingly, within blurred streaks of pure momentum. Those strips contain images of the clouded sky, trees and loose tangles of hair; they read cumulatively as life’s sensory rush, punctuated by a dazzling moment of reprieve.



A picture of a hand cupping liquid light strikes a similar note of wonder, one that is not, unfortunately, sustained throughout the show. A group of landscape images shot into the sun is simplistic and elementary, merely a sequence of blinding white flares,  and the collaged photographs and delicate ink drawing that make up “Separate Sun” cohere with little urgency and no particular grace. In “EKG Ocean,” Ryan overlays the faintly drawn pattern of a heartbeat atop a photograph of the ocean, but the idea of congruency between human and tidal pulse is more evocative than its visualization.

-- Leah Ollman

William Griffin Gallery, 2902 Nebraska Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 586-6886, through Nov. 6. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Image: She Could Barely Contain Herself (top) and Pulse. Photo Credit:  Robert Wedemeyer. Courtesy of William Griffin Gallery.