Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, Calif.
Through June 23
Photographer Connie Samaras is a tourist of humanity’s near future, said Sharon Mizota in the Los Angeles Times. Over the past two decades, the Los Angeles–based artist has traveled to a private space-launch facility in the New Mexico desert, a scientific outpost near the South Pole, and the indoor ski slopes of Dubai. At each stop she has made, she’s created photographs that “look uncannily like film sets.” The roof of Spaceport America’s terminal “rises like the wings of a giant beetle emerging from the sand.” The domed structures she found peeking out of Antarctica’s ice could have had cameos in Star Wars. Always “rigorously composed,” these photographs “attest to the human will (or hubris) to remake the world in the image of our fantasies, whether they are daydreams or nightmares.” And not all of them required the builders to expend extreme sums. Samaras recently created a series about a women-only mobile-home retirement park that makes the community look both modestly utopian and completely unreal.
People are rarely seen in Samaras’s landscapes, but they seem ever on the artist’s mind, said Annie Buckley in Artforum. “For Samaras, photography acts as a membrane,” an impenetrable skin that reminds us that the viewer’s gaze is different from the photographer’s gaze, which is in turn different from reality. She puts her own politics into these pictures, but “subtly so,” as if she wants the artist’s ideological framework to be an element on par with the play of light, color, and form. One of the three videos in this exhibition is merely a loop of a seal that’s getting air through a hole in Antarctica’s ice, the animal’s heavy breathing offering a dose of raw but vulnerable vitality. The human presence is invisible, but inescapable.