Florian Meier-Aichen’s photographs are of places, not occurrences, but the way he makes his pictures — not just shoots them, but treats them in between shutter click and print-out — gives the places he documents an eerie momentousness. He favors subjects that have become photographic tropes: seascapes, mountain vistas, industrial buildings (as well as, interestingly, blueprints). But for all his clearly loving references to photographic history, Meier-Aichen insists on looking at the world like a painter, free to alter color, heighten surface incident, muddy or sharpen distinction between figure and ground, and otherwise play with what he and his camera have seen. Meier-Aichen, who splits his time between Cologne and L.A., regards his subjects as visual monuments, a point of view particular to German photography for more than a century. But he eschews the “truth” of silver-nitrate or Cibachrome clarity for much more nuanced, even impressionistic textures, colors and, yes, subtle changes in the subjects themselves. The results are no less imposing, but they are now suffused with an uneasy opulence that questions “truth,” and yet signals a craving for it — a “truthiness” that’s as much Platonic argument as Colbertian critique.
Painters stubbornly hold on to the “truth” of paint itself, even when painting pictures of things, and that facture powers Reza Derakshani’s works on canvas and paper. This commitment to paint on Derakshani’s part is all the more intriguing as he is best known on this side of the globe as a musician — one of the leading fusion artists playing traditional Iranian instruments. But he is as true to his brushstroke as to his beat, and in his art he displays an equally compelling commitment to image and material. You can choose to read Derakshani’s rough-hewn, delicately colored arrangements of lines and clots as just that, or you can recognize them as the boughs and fruit of Iran’s beloved pomegranate tree. No mistaking, though, the craggy triangle that also obsesses Derakshani for anything but a mountain, albeit stylized into a veritable emblem of mountainness. Florian Meier-Aichen at MOCA in the Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Ave., W. Hlywd., Tues.-Wed., Fri. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Thurs. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; thru Sept. 30. (310) 289-5223. Reza Derakshani at Seyhoun, 9007 Melrose Ave., W. Hlywd., Tues.-Sat. noon-5 p.m.; thru Sept. 22. (310) 858-5984.