By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
This holds true for that work today, but Flick’s road to this successful strategy turns out not to have been as abrupt (or effortless) as first impressions suggest. In "Trajectories," LACMA’s retrospective of the USC stalwart’s photography from the late ’60s on, Flick’s later work emerges as the pinnacle of a studied evolution from tightly designed Weston-influenced prints to conjecturally generated samplings of an essentially performative relationship to the landscape. Born in the Netherlands in 1939, Flick made his home in the East Indies and British Columbia before eventually settling down in Los Angeles.
"Trajectories" follows a series of exquisitely composed still shots of parking garages and empty fields for a considerable time before Flick’s seemingly innocuous couplings of disparate pictures first begin. From the start, the work seems to be groping for ways to make sense of the L.A. experience, and pairing generally incongruent images into a boiled-down dyadic narrative seemed to flip a switch for Flick. His grids multiplied outward, and he experimented with different ways of dealing with the implicit narrative of a comic-strip structure filled with slightly varied images of an ocean, a city or a desert. In some of these experiments, Flick nails the exquisite flip-flop between experimental sequential narrative and immediate visual bang. His move into even less controllable, socially risquÃ© (at least in darkroom country) digital media was courageous, but paid off. The Western textual scanning (left to right, top to bottom) imposed by Flick’s claustrophobic panorama strips directs the eye in a strict progression that seems to belie the serendipitous, jittery overall compositions that emerge from the accumulation of aleatory frames. And his almost exclusive focus on the urban L.A. landscape gave the work an urgency and, perversely, a universality that his nature photo grids didn’t approach.
For Angelenos, Flick’s work possesses the same familiarity as TV advertising (the Second Street tunnel) and home movies (an infinity of multi-unit facades). Site-specific audience participation continues to be a controversial cutting-edge formula in the contemporary art world, and although this further layer of interactive narrative only surfaces for people who have driven around L.A. for a few years, it can’t be discounted, as its semi-intentionality and the rhythm of attention shifting in and out of a personal memory mode mesh seamlessly with the photo grids’ other formal and conceptual hooks.
The final work in the show, At Cambria, is an atypical triptych of large grids of minimal, subtly modulating seascape photos. Situated in an appropriately bench-provided gallery, they are immersive, healing and rigorously formal. The inescapable overall narrative implied is that Flick has moved beyond his engagement with ctual and sensually slowed-down roots. But even if these works weren’t so clearly established as having emerged from the most direct, empirical, unsentimental confrontation with the world (through a lens) of which the artist was capable, they embody all the formally complex and socially and politically ambivalent history that led up to their creation. The fact that they lead us to such a serene and contemplative space is totally bonus.Robert Smithson | MOCA, 250 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles | Through December 13 Trajectories: The Photographic Work of Robbert Flick LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles | Through January 9