February 26, 2015
[Chip draws parallels between David Lynch and a ghostly show of photograms, which he saw while visiting Los Angeles. — the artblog editors]
“No hay banda! There is no band.” Amid the rippled, red “curtains” slung across the rear of Von Lintel Gallery, we find ourselves as the audience for a performance devoid of motion and sound, yet the voice from David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” cuts through loud and clear. “This is all…a tape recording,” says the host from Club Silencio; or rather a “treacherous image,” as the case may be.
Artist Farrah Karapetian’s first solo show at the Los Angeles gallery is all but an illusion. Karapetian is someone who works primarily in sometimes representational photograms, and this particular exhibition is inhabited by images hailing from the vocabulary of music and theater. These staged, temporal art forms are very distinct disciplines in their own right, and ones that would not appear to translate well to still images, especially those dependent on long exposures.
In Stagecraft, we encounter life-size drums, horns, and microphones, and yet, not only are they silent, they are not there at all. By capturing these phantoms with the help of camera-less photographic stills, Karapetian carefully directs a show that maintains itself only through the power of suggestion. This parallel with music’s innate ability to communicate through abstract patterns, and drama’s capacity to weave complex scenarios from speech and gesture, only becomes more apparent as I spend more time with these fixed replicas.
Initially, the reverse silhouettes seem straightforward. Each image is layered and bright, with the whitish instruments and occasional musicians contrasted against a murky background of negative space. There are images of cymbals tilted above the toms of a drum kit submerged in an amber glow; the tall yellow portrait of a guitar resting upright; and an orange saxophone bleeding through a darkness that threatens to overtake it and the entire frame.
In a side room, we find a fully assembled drum kit bathed in white light. Entitled “In the Wake of Sound; In the Break of Sound,” this instrument is not what it first appears to be. Incapable of being played like an actual drum kit, this setup is really just an elaborate prop used by Karapetian to produce her photograms, or a Dadaist romp to recall Man Ray’s “rayograms”.
From this almost voyeuristic standpoint, we naturally turn back to Lynch. In the world of “Mulholland Drive,” we attend a concert with no musicians, and our notions of authenticity come under assault. Farrah Karapetian’s Stagecraft is little more than a trick of light and chemistry, but in a way, so is everything we see.