Filtering by Tag: Robbert Flick

Robbert Flick at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art

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Three very different styles of landscape photography are being served up in a small but savory sampling of images from deep in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Part of a series of exhibitions meant to showcase objects that rarely see the light of day, “Landscapes in Passing” features work from a trio of photographers, each of whom is represented by a single body of black-and-white work: Elaine Mayes, Robbert Flick and Steve Fitch.

The show spans a single decade and begins with Mayes’s “Autolandscape” project documenting her 1971 cross-country road trip from San Francisco to Amherst, Mass. Shot from inside a moving car — sometimes while she was driving — the 18 images are arranged in geographic order and include pictures from 11 states. (Only one image of Utah, hung outside the entrance to the show, is out of sequence.)

Because her camera was moving, there’s a bit of blur in most of the images, which only adds to the feeling of exhilarating speed and spontaneity that comes from the fact that Mayes usually wasn’t even looking through the viewfinder. As a result, there’s a random quality to the subject matter, which avoids the photogenic grandeur of scenic parklands for the banality of street signs, offramps, distant mountains and telephone poles. Most of Mayes’s sea-to-shining-sea travelogue emphasizes hypnotic monotony over purple mountain majesties.

“Autolandscape” contains a double meaning, referring both to the artist’s vehicular vantage point and to the automatic nature of the shooting, which was guided primarily by instinct, not aesthetics. Flick’s photos, from his 1980 “Sequential Views” project, are similarly robotic.

Each of Flick’s works contains a 10-by-10 grid of 100 postage-stamp-size images of such Los Angeles area neighborhoods as Beverly Hills and Venice Beach. Like Mayes, Flick is also a documentarian of the landscape, except he’s moving through it on foot, not in a car. Shot at prescribed intervals, his grid of Inglewood, for example, documents a stroll down 10 blocks of Regent Street. Look very closely at the left-hand row, and you can just make out the street signs.

Surprisingly, the effect is less numbing than you might think. Shooting the quintessential car culture as a pedestrian — with his shutter blinking every few steps or so — Flick creates an almost filmlike effect, like an extended tracking shot. Evoking frames of a movie, Flick’s sequential views aren’t so much panoramas as miniature “cineramas.”

Steve Fitch’s work is unlike anything else in the show. Shot between 1971 and 1976 for a series (and book) called “Diesels and Dinosaurs,” the images document a Western America characterized by truck stops, motels, drive-ins, roadside reptile zoos and dilapidated dinosaur sculptures. Wit — along with careful composition — replaces the seemingly haphazard, deadpan tone of Mayes’s and Flick’s work.

Most of Fitch’s humor derives from irony. His idea of “nature” or “landscape” is epitomized by Woody Woodpecker on the screen at a Dallas drive-in or a mural of mountains painted onto the wall of the Big Chief Motel on Highway 80 in Gila Bend, Ariz.

It’s tempting to dismiss Fitch as the least landscape-y of the three artists. After all, his subject, more often than not, is vernacular architecture.

On one level, his work is about displacement, not place. Still, like Mayes and Flick, he conveys a real sense of a country in which no one — least of all the artist — stays in one place anymore.

The Story Behind the Work

Flick’s series of sequential views were shot for the Los Angeles Documentary Project, a survey sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, that put into service seven photographers (in addition to the Dutch-born Flick) who were known for their work in California: Gusmano Cesaretti, Joe Deal, Douglas Hill, John Humble, Bill Owen, Susan Ressler and Max Yavno.

Surprisingly, all of the artists shot in black-and-white, other than Owen, who focused on swimming pools, clubs and other colorful SoCal stereotypes.

That may be because the NEA survey project was as much conceptual as retinal. Although there aren’t many people in Flick’s images — a rare exception being his grid of a crowded Venice Beach on Labor Day weekend — his photographs are all about man’s effect on the environment. There isn’t much nature in his pictures. Mostly, it’s restricted to the street signs that evoke an American myth of rusticity that exists only in the place names on urban maps: Prairie, Eastwood, Hillcrest, Locust, Fir and Eucalyptus.

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This Artweek.LA (February 4, 2013): Robbert Flick

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Being Here | The exhibition features photographic works by 10 extraordinary artists whose imagery derives from the experience of living and/or working in the Inland Empire (IE). Each of the their creative works provide us with a unique view and perspective of life in the IE, a place close enough to Los Angeles to have the advantages and challenges of a major urban environment yet still a sufficient distance away to develop its own individual character and identity.

The IE is characterized by the strong contrast of suburban sprawl, shopping malls, freeways, and small urban centers against open space, towering mountains, immense blue skies, and quiet solitude. For many artists, 'place' greatly influences their ideas, process, and production, and this is reflected in the artworks of Lewis deSoto, Robbert Flick, Sant Khalsa, Thomas McGovern, Naida Osline, Tony Maher, Douglas McCulloh, Susan Rankaitis, Julie Shafer, and Amir Zaki. Their vision is diverse and vast like the nature of the environment -- the landscape and people of the IE. Each artist's work is distinct in its concept, content, and approach, providing us with an opportunity to view and gain understanding of the significance of the everyday -- the ordinary and often overlooked. The photographic works in the exhibition developed from each artist's creative impulse to visually articulate their independent experience of being here.

Being Here opens February 9 at Andi Campognone Projects

Text and image courtesy of The Huffington Post.

Robbert Flick On Saturdays

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Expo Line Unveils Work by Legendary L.A. Photographer

By Suzanne Wu

April 24, 2012

On Saturday mornings, USC professor Robbert Flick, a titan in the world of documentary photography, likes to go for long drives around Los Angeles, down streets like Normandie Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard, San Pedro Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, past old craftsman homes and studio lots and the sun-bleached stucco walls of the best produce markets in the city.

These are working joyrides: Flick, who has taught photography at the USC Roski School of Fine Arts since 1976, commutes by train and shoots much of his work from an innocuous moving minivan, capturing the rhythms of street life through streams of images taken from a motorized tripod, allowing him to keep his eyes on the road.

The resulting images, arranged in a grid like a long moving strip, are familiar terrain for the residents in Los Angeles, the daily backdrop of living in this city. But they also are irretrievably lost moments, fragments of another day – the constantly changing skyline and glimpses of people heading to somewhere else, mimicking the experience of gazing out of a train window.

So it could not be more fitting that the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) commissioned Flick to provide the artwork for a major stop on the new Exposition Line opening this Saturday, a historic light rail expansion that will finally connect the city’s downtown core to its most populous neighborhood, South Los Angeles.

Flick’s new piece, On Saturdays, will grace the Expo Park/USC stop at an entrance to the main USC campus near the USC Fisher Museum of Art, just across the street from the Natural History Museum, the California Science Center and the Californian African American Museum.

Art review: 'Street Sight' at Armory Center for the Arts

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Culture Monster

All the Arts, All the Time

Art review: 'Street Sight' at Armory Center for the Arts

July 14, 2011 |  5:30 pm

Flick Building on its L.A.-centric retrospectives of Robert Rauschenberg and Steve Roden, the Armory Center for the Arts presents “Street Sight,” a thoughtful look at L.A. photography in the 1960s and '70s. Specifically, the show charts the shift away from traditional street photography to the more dispassionate, process-oriented approach of the New Topographics movement. However, the 15 featured artists exhibit a distinctly L.A. spin, finding unexpected beauty in environments shaped by car culture.

Ed Ruscha’s 30 aerial views of parking lots reveal a delicate fish-bone pattern in the white lines that mark the spaces. Robbert Flick’s rigorously composed images of parking garages are strikingly moody, and in Graham Howe’s crisp images of Palm Springs, curls of highway slice through the desert like snakes.


The architecture of the Southland receives similar scrutiny. Seymour Rosen’s portraits of storefront churches record the opportunistic mixing of crosses and commerce. Judy Fiskin’s tiny prints of apartment buildings with cross-like facades feel like small devotional offerings. And textured with a grain that suggests graphite drawing, Grant Mudford’s delicate photographs of sun-baked sidewalks, cinderblock walls and other non-places are surprisingly tender.

Despite the almost scientific rigor imposed by this style of photography, the resulting images often celebrate sights we still find ugly and plain. They reflected a new aesthetic in their own time; they now call attention to a beauty we have yet to fully appreciate.

-- Sharon Mizota

Armory Center for the Arts, 145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, (626) 792-5101, through Sept. 11. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Photos, from top: Robbert Flick, "77159-21," 1977. Credit: Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Grant Mudford, "Los Angeles," 1976/printed 1980. Credit: Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica.

Armory Center for the Arts: Street Sight

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Exhibition: 26 June - 11 September, 2011

Armory Center for the Arts is pleased to present a major exhibition of Southern California street photography from the late 1960s through early 1980s entitled, Street Sight. The exhibition, organized by curator Tim B. Wride, will be on display in the Armory's Caldwell Gallery from Sunday, June 26 - September 11, 2011. Exhibiting artists will include Adam Bartos, Darrl Curran, Bevan Davies, John Divola, Judy Fiskin, Robbert Flick, Dennis Hopper, Graham Howe, Grant Mudford, Jane O'Neal, Marvin Rand, Seymour Rosen, Ed Rusha, Julian Wasser, and Terry Wild. The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated publication with a scholarly essay by the curator. An opening reception, free and open to the public, will take place on Saturday, June 25, from 7-9pm.

Street Sight takes into account the factors that contributed to the post-war shift in Southern California-based photography from imagery that was picturesque, image-oriented, and anecdotal in nature, to a more conceptually motivated style of representation and object-making that was decisively suburban, process-oriented, and experiential. The artists whose work is included in the exhibition have made a prepositional shift away from the description and distillation of activity and inhabitants that are seen on the street to an emphasis on those elements, extensions, and experiences that are not just of the street, but, of the street that is dominated, defined, and experienced by the automobile.

For artists Robbert Flick and Ed Ruscha, this resulted in a meditative celebration and typology, respectively, of the parking lot. Darryl Curran elevates the conflation of sexually charged imagery with the shapes and icons of gasoline stations into totems of a new potency. The typologies of Bevan Davies, Judy Fiskin, John Divola, and Seymour Rosen overlay economic and architectural accumulations made possible by the car's fluid access to broad geographies. Jane O'Neal's saturated color imagery provides the experience of the street from within the car with carnivalesque garishness, while images by Marvin Rand and Julian Wassar use montage and time-exposure strategies to formally distill the motion of the street. Adam Bartos celebrates the two ends of the spectrum of road quality with his cinematic treatment of a freeway overpass and a hillside overlook. And, for Australian transplants Graham Howe and Grant Mudford the traces, boundaries, and borders of streets themselves elicited formal responses that underpin insightful psychological descriptions of both place and medium.

Street Sight is an examination of the quintessentially automobile-centric Southern California experience of place. This type of experience is distinguished from a "road-trip" sensibility in so far as it is predicated on a day-to-day reliance on getting from place to place by car. For those in the region, the car is an indispensable appendage for accessing the flow of daily life; it is the tool through which they understand the spaces and map the environment in which they live. For artists in the region whose interests veered toward their understanding of "place," this meant a reliance on new ways of contextualizing, cataloguing, codifying and transcribing their experience. Their was a pioneering moment that drew from the emergent sensibilities that informed New Topographics, embraced the unbridled nature of their artmaking community, and seamlessly internalized the unique street culture that cemented the disparate geographies of Southern California. Theirs was a new way of seeing, a different mode of experience, and a conceptually charged means of mapping that created a potent, post-modern approach to street photography.

Text courtesy of The Armory Center for the Arts press release.

Robbert Flick: Metro Station Installation

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An installation of 24 art panels by photographer Robbert Flick now hang at Expo Park/USC Station, as of 29 April. Flick chose to photograph Adams and Jefferson on the north end of the area, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Vernon on the south end, San Pedro and Central Avenue to the east and Budlong and Normandie Avenue to the west.These art panels immortalize these changing thoroughfares as they are in the moment they were photographed. Flick said in his official statement: "These East/West and North/South corridors are on the verge of major change and have already a little known but well documented history. It is my intent to create a temporal representation of these thoroughfares in terms of the present."

Images courtesy of The Source