In describing the process of putting his photography show together, Gabriel Malikian emphasized the size and scope of the task of selecting a small batch of images from a catalog of thousands of photos. He had almost too many options.
For “What Air Ordered” Malikian weighed options like going with urban images from his time in Los Angeles and New York against ideas of crafting a show that would feature the outdoors, the desert and a sense of space.
He had to choose between a variety of display concepts too and with some help from June Milham ultimately decided to strive for a show oriented by the notion of balance.
The images in “What Air Ordered” are displayed in balanced pairs, but the pairs also work as larger sets. They are arranged with one pair above another in a way that generates an uncanny sense of dimension out of a relatively small number of photographs. The particular arrangement of the images achieves a sense of weight and a sense of weightlessness from the raw materials of things like dilapidated mechanics shops, emphasizing square shapes, and wind-crooked pine trees on a mountain top, playing at sort of shapelessness.
It all fits together, one image balanced against its counterpart. Instead of focusing on either urban landscapes or natural ones, Malikian chose to balance these as well. There are photos of downtown Los Angeles with the city showing, as he says, the “scars and wear of its recent past.” There are photos of run down sections of Billings, Montana too, where Malikian found “forgotten geometries” in the sun-bleached corridors behind Main Street.
And this is what Malikian put his show together to speak to – “the details of decay and stress” that mark the world around us.
To put it one way, the collection of photos examines a history of our collective need to forget, to move away from the past even if we have to wade directly through yesterday’s leftovers to do it. (And there are so many leftovers.)
Looking at the pieces in in this show, it’s impossible not to be reminded just how much other people’s decisions influence our own experiences. The artifacts of other people’s lives, both present and past, literally surround us everywhere we go.
Someone’s family farm seems to be fading before our eyes on that road trip across the countryside. A farm truck sits in arrested motion, rusting between hay bales. The farm is still there, still working, the hay is stacked and ready, but the truck is a sign that what once was passed on from generation to generation is not going to be passed on anymore.
In crafting his color palette for “What Air Ordered,” Malikian chose a desert scheme appropriate for a show on display in Quartz Hill, in the southern reaches of the Mojave Desert. The browns and ochres pop against the blue skies. The sun seems to come slanting in like someone refusing to take no for an answer. There is ground and there is air. And maybe that’s where show’s name comes from – the sense of moving upward, of sublimation, a place for the sun to stick its nose in.
What Air Ordered
Photography by Gabriel Malikian
June 30 to September 7
42104 50th Street West
Quartz Hill, CA 93536