Natan Moss: A Quiet America

At Gallery Ocho. Shows through April 17.

Natan Moss's "Hay Bales" (2007).

Is there anything more romantic than a cross-country road journey? The road trip has inspired artists from all disciplines since the dawning of motorized transportation. Woody Guthrie sang about it. Jack Kerouac wrote about it. Robert Frank photographed it. Millions have dreamt about it. While the passage of time has added a quality of nostalgia to the work of the aforementioned masters, the calling of the road is something contemporary artists still find difficult to ignore. Case in point: Natan Moss.

Currently on display at Gallery Ocho is a selection of color images composed by the Los Angeles-based photographer. The work is the result of a cross-country sojourn Moss took last year. On this trip, the photographer focused not on the life being lived all around him, but on the traces of it. Among the 17 images that constitute this exhibition, we encounter a silent fairground, a cemetery sitting solemnly beside a fuel depot, an accumulation of used mobile homes, and three white silos. These subjects are silent, stoic reminders of the lives that take place in and around them-lives that remain invisible to the viewer.

In capturing these zones and remnants of daily existence, Moss makes a poignant visual statement. The most moving examples of this can be found in his slightly more abstract works. In “Nowhere Fence,” a wooden paling fence stretches across the frame, and the seemingly empty landscape around it imparts a certain irony to the structure; what is being kept in, or out? Similarly, a mundane collection of stacked cement blocks that constitute “Cement Barriers” make one wonder what or whom these barriers once protected.

Among the most enchanting of these images is “Hay Bales,” in which an array of bales is carefully stacked at the side of the road. The row of neatly bundled silage disappears to the left of frame, encouraging the viewer to question the breadth of such a carefully arranged deposit, as well as the purpose of it. Such is the beauty of Moss’s work: Every one of his compositions leaves the viewer wondering. Such an effect is only fitting; it is wonder that inspires such journeys in the first place.


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