NEW YORK ARTS REVIEW: Amidst Global Change, MOPLA Opening Exhibition Strikes Timely Chord

ITHAKA - Alexandra Hedison

Frank Pictures Gallery, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica 

April 4-May 12 MOPLA opening: April 4th 7pm

The choice of the Month of Photography Los Angeles’ (MOPLA) opening exhibition could hardly be more appropriate. Inspired by C.P.Cavafy’s poem “Ithaka”, the exhibit by LA-based artist and photographer Alexandra Hedison certainly strikes a timely chord with its conceptual dimensions, speaking equally to the individual and collective in its rumination on existence and its constituent unpredictability. 

Comprised of a series of large-format images shot in the temperate rainforest of the Pacific Northwest, the work serves as an illustration for Hedison of the “internal odyssey”, capturing in its metaphoric visual narrative a personal documentation of the inner landscape and the journey from a recognizable place to one that is unfamiliar. Like much of her previous work, it explores transition and change with the undercurrents of loss.

In its meditation on both the structures that make the core framework of the forest’s landscape, and also “the seasonal growth with its own shorter cycles of life and death”, the images that form ITHAKA offer a meticulously calculated balance in their documentation of foreground and background, shadow and light, density and vacuity. 

Known for her narratives of abstract landscapes, in this fifth solo exhibition Hedison’s work once again draws for itself parallels between Alfred Stieglitz and Minor White in their exploration of Equivalence – a concept that found its genesis when Stieglitz explaining his work in the 20’s said, “I have a vision of life and I try to find equivalents for it in the form of photographs”.

White, who later offered a more elaborate, scholarly reflection on the nature of Equivalence as a function, once said, when looking at an image of the ocean, that he was ‘appalled by the image of [his] inner landscape’. In the case of ITHAKA, the landscape is hardly that, but the work draws parallels both in its sharp documentation of the forest’s features as symbols for the inner state, and also in its technical execution. The images are as layered in their visual perspectives as they are textured, offering a case study for the examination of fine implementation in the artistic practice of perceptual photographic narration.

The notion of the photograph serving at once as a record of something within tangible visibility of the eye, and simultaneously as a symbol, is a conceptual language that Hedison reflects a mastery of in this particular body of work – her first in three years. In one image, a thicket of indigenous growth envelopes a fallen tree, weaving over it a complex web of spontaneous life (Ithaka 36).  “The forest floor is layered,” Hedison says of it. “Layers upon layers of fallen things. Dead things, which are now alive in a different way. Old growth, new life. And we were there, dying too”.

The combination of Hedison’s perceptive sensibilities, and an eye for capturing details vivid in their translated symbolism, brings to this series a pertinence that holds collective resonance, and places Hedison’s practice of photography on the radar of artists whose work adds contemporary dimension to the exploration of Equivalence. 


                                             - Yasmine el Rashidi