Sunday, March 31, 2019

Jared Ragland and Cary Norton at Staple Goods The Valley Below: Photographs by Janna Ireland

The land we call America was once a clean, unspoiled place with few slums or criminal gangs before uninvited immigrants began arriving in large numbers, bringing crime, drugs and disease with them. The immigrants, who came mostly from Europe, soon overran the Native Americans' idyllic lands and exiled them to refugee enclaves called “reservations.”

Photographers Jared Ragland and Cary Norton used an antique camera, archaic photo processes and a portable darkroom in a truck to document sites where indigenous Americans once lived in Alabama, places now sometimes empty and resonant with a sense of absence. “Garrett Cemetery,” Cherokee County, Alabama,” top, is emblematic, a dark arboreal vortex beyond a cemetery that evokes a desolate Anselm Kiefer painting. There lie the remains of the area's last Cherokee chief, who died just before his tribe's forced exile. The aura of silence is deafening.
The imprints of place, culture and class are explored in Janna Ireland's realistic yet subtly ethereal photographs set in suburban Los Angeles. Here she appears as a central yet neutral figure at a tastefully posh, traditional San Fernando Valley manse, where her role as a contemplative observer who happens to be black gives us a kind of ebony Virginia Woolfean view of a classic California wonderland. In images that flow together with the disjointed continuity of dreams, we see her applying makeup in a mirror in “Cream,” or posed shyly in a swimsuit by a pool in “The Diving Board,” or amid palms or citrus trees in scenes reminiscent of anthropological self-portraits.

Others include details from her husband's grandfather's home where his taste for splendid yet understated objects, distilled through the photographer's eye, yields pristinely somnambulistic domestic tableaux. Combining work from two earlier series, Ireland provides us with a penetrating look into the psychic dimensions of a specific place in an iconic southern California locale in photographs that often read like elegant experiments in pure perception. ~Bookhardt / Where You Come From is Gone: Photographs by Jared Ragland + Cary Norton, Through April 7, Staple Goods, 1340 St. Roch Ave., 908-7331; The Valley Below: Photographs by Janna Ireland, Through April 7, Antenna Gallery, 3718 Saint Claude Ave., 250-7975.