Shotgun Review

Bischoff Soren Black

By Aimee Le Duc September 20, 2011

Brice Bischoff, Tabitha Soren, and Ellen Black’s exhibition, on view at Johansson Projects through October 15, is appropriately titled with only the artists’ last names. The simple title is a fitting, definitive invitation to an exhibition of distinct bodies of work, but it can also be understood as a naming of three mythologies that reference the ways we use landscapes and oceanscapes to represent the otherworldly.

Bischoff uses the Bronson Caves in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park as a background for his rainbow-colored specters created from colored paper that he photographs using long exposure times. The results are blurry, amorphous, multicolored shapes that hover in the caves’ foreground. He manipulates the photographs to reveal an image that exists only in the final print, turning on its head the idea of a photograph being used to catch a picture of a ghost. Bischoff takes the photograph, but the final product does not reveal what the camera captured. As viewers, we are delightfully caught in the middle of the actual and the imagined.

Black pulls viewers far back from the landscape. In three video pieces that jut out from angular boxes on the wall, small video screens show views of people walking along the beach. The videos are slightly off; the contrast is high, and the timing is intentionally skewed. While struggling to focus and recognize what is happening in these innocuous scenes, we realize that we are too far away to be a part of this landscape. Still, we are somehow in it, perhaps as voyeurs, or perhaps we are partially recalling a bit of a dream or nightmare. The unsettling tone is uncanny in its familiarity and upsetting in its size, effectively placing viewers in a darker position, right there on what should be a beautiful beach.


Tabitha Soren, Panic Beach 15759-3, Johansson Projects

Tabitha Soren, Panic Beach 15759-3, 2011; pigment print; 30 x 40 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Johansson Projects, Oakland.

In the four photographs that make up Soren’s Panic Beach series, the all-encompassing terror of water and light comes crashing down and, in the case of Panic Beach 00107-7  (2011), literally comes off the wall and onto the floor. These fantastical works are brilliant and painterly, bringing about sacred and profane references to landscape and ocean with one glance.

Each artist wisely uses the photographic medium to push his or her conceptual undertaking, and their approaches are refreshing. In this current age of technology, the seemingly infinite choices of filters, Photoshop, and digital renderings are often utilized simply because they can be. With Bischoff, Soren, and Black, however, their choices are thoughtful; their images become objects, both beautiful and ominous. This exhibition allows a viewer to relish in the darkness of the landscape, to experience the danger of the unknown natural world while standing at a safe distance, close enough to feel the discomfort but not far enough to look away.



Bischoff Soren Black is on view at Johansson Projects, in Oakland, through October 15, 2011.

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