Laura Larson: Complimentary
New York, NY 10012
May 17 – June 22, 2002
Laura Larson photographs hotel rooms in disarray, discovering in them not only that unsettling convergence of corporate artifice and fugitive intimacy peculiar to such places but something other and particular to her own sensibility. The images are familiar, generic, at first almost invisible. The cleaning service is making its rounds. The guests have gone, the maids have yet to strip the rumpled beds. Apart from the soiled sheets and the trash scattered on the floor, there is nothing in the room to draw our attention. On second look, however, the formal tensions and peripheral oddities in the photographs assert themselves. A blanket is folded on exactly one half of a bed, exposing the impress of a fastidious or lonely someone. The carpet in the foreground of a hallway fills the picture plane like a prairie landscape, then quickly-too quickly-blurs in the recess. Perspectives shift from dead on to overhead, the two coexisting queasily rather than merging. Light insinuates itself from an odd variety of sources-natural or artificial, focused or diffuse, from screens, bulbs, windows, and reflective surfaces, from above and below, from the recesses of closets and bathrooms.
The colors in these rooms, however, appear disconnected from the sources of light that ostensibly produce them. It is as if the muted whites and beiges in several of the rooms were laid on with plastic sheets, or the intense red on blankets in other scenes had splashed out of that bathtub-half full of brackish or bloody water-or radiated out of the man-made fibers in the carpeting. It is all a bit much and not enough, like much of modern life in middle class America. We are privy to signifying systems without apparent significance, clues in crime scenes without the crime, or dreams without the dream. No dead body floats in the bathtub, no sexy underwear hangs from a light fixture. Like the random tableau in Philip-Lorca Dicorcia’s street scenes, Larson’s photographs tease us with the blank eloquence of nothing in particular in the lives of no one we are likely to know. The primacy of the surface in these reverses the inclinations of the recent past: no sniffing in the subterranean recesses of the emotional landscape for clues to some buried trauma. In those places where public and private meet-hotel rooms, or perhaps the booths at restaurants or nightclubs–what we see, right in front of us, is what we see.
Behind the desk at Lennon, Weinberg, Larson’s photographs of museum period rooms and crime scene miniatures harken, with charming poignancy, to that Hitchcockian dream-like strangeness so conspicuously absent in the hotel scenes. It would be interesting to have these little images and the large-format hotel scenes interspersed in the same exhibition space. As it is, the placement of the smaller photographs behind the desk and around corners of rooms makes an intriguing parallel to the visual experience within the hotel images. One leaves the gallery intrigued and dispirited, curious to see more.