Tucked away in a quiet corner of the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles is the Metro Gallery. Nestled at the foot of the reservoir that gives the area its name and just a short distance from Sunset Boulevard, the gallery currently hosts A Sense of Place, an exhibition of new works by Southern California photographer Ann Mitchell. These images of man-made nature-fantasy gardens and private estates including Santa Barbara’s Val Verde and Lotusland-explore the overlap between nature and design using vintage cameras, large-format film, and digital techniques.
While the majority of the exhibition draws from Mitchell’s exploration of the two Montecito estates, these tranquil surveys are curiously contrasted with a selection of triptychs depicting a concrete-scarred Los Angeles. The juxtaposition of these vastly different landscapes results in an intriguing yet disjointed presentation.
Both selections are composed of large-scale prints. Mitchell typically employs Polaroid film that produces a negative whose outermost edges are typically afflicted with a residue from the peeling process. In embracing an approach landscape photographer Mark Klett first employed to great effect, Mitchell also includes the extremities of the negative-and its inherent aberrations-lending the work a mystical quality.
In her exploration of the estate parks, Mitchell is drawn to the quietness of the shadows. Elegant architectural interiors are bathed in the glow of diffused daylight, garden subjects are viewed from shaded vantage points, and natural scenes often reside under a canopy of branches and leaves.
In stark contrast with this series, both in terms of approach and sentiment, are the triptych images of Los Angeles. The sun-drenched urban landscapes of San Pedro harbor, a tree-lined street in San Gabriel, and the industrial wasteland of downtown Los Angeles are each presented as three successive views, resulting in a panorama. Technique and subject matter combine to convey beautiful yet chilling representations of these stark, urban scenes that sit awkwardly with the manicured landscapes of the estate parks. Yet both have resulted from the hand of man on the face of nature.
he Metro Gallery is located at 1835 Hyperion Street in Silver Lake. For more information, call (323) 663-2787.