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PATRICK PIAZZA

May 4 - 27, 2001 at Fototeka, Silverlake

by Jody Zellen


Patrick Piazza is a young photographer living in San Francisco. Although he has not yet had the opportunity to widely exhibit his work, he has been included in numerous shows in the Bay Area. For his first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, Piazza presents a compelling new body of work en- titled junk TRACE relic wreck. In these color photographs Piazza focuses on details. He examines that which others have discarded--specifically abandoned cars--and finds beauty in the detritus. Traveling from California to Alaska on an annual pilgrimage, Piazza stopped to visit the numerous junkyards that dotted his route. Here he photographed the interiors of abandoned cars.

As much formal studies as social commentaries, Piazza's interest in these abandoned cars can be traced to his first trips to junkyards as a young boy. He states, "From the very first time I visited a junkyard, I was fascinated by the pervasive human presence that I saw inside of old wrecked cars. An automobile is just a machine, perhaps, but it is a machine that ends up being physically marked by the lives of its owners." Interested in salvaging the "humanity" within the wreckage before it vanishes, Piazza looks closely at his subject. He functions as an archeologist, looking for meaning in the ripped seats and the mangled upholstery of the cars.

According to Piazza "the junkyard is like a world abandoned by its inhabitants." The cars that end up there were not necessarily in major accidents but left in haste. Piazza does not focus on the new and the shiny, but rather the automobiles that are in various stages of disintegration where pieces are held together by the ingenuity of their previous owners. In one image (all photographs are Untitled, Chromogenic Development prints, 18 x 22 inches, mounted on aluminum) the arm rest between the two front seats is wrapped by a black leather belt. Yellow foam peeks through the rotting nylon seat that has been covered in clear plastic. The majority of Piazza's images are close-ups that focus on the details of decay like a molded piece of fruit or the tangled layers of the seat backing. Piazza is also interested in the objects left in these cars--a small toy wedged between the seats, fake fangs (perhaps part of a child's Halloween costume) or a rotting pacifier. Centered in the photographs, these objects have the appearance of sculptures, indeed of precious objects being shown off after having been discovered on an endless treasure hunt. In one image a white plastic child's toy, resembling Snoopy, emerges from the dark black background. Was this toy accidently left? Who did it belong to? Piazza's images raise such questions.

The more successful images look closely at the textures and the gritty colors of old vinyl. In one Untitled image he focuses on the worn flower-pattern of the interior fabric. Caught between where the seat meets the backing is a piece of yellow yarn--it is nothing significant, yet everything to the image. Where the foreground and background merge creates an allover pattern within the frame. Although the images seem to depict lost dreams and failed hopes, they are not devoid of life. Pieces of grass and small plants appear, moving up through the cracks indicating that life is a process and endless cycle of growth and decay.



“Untitled”, from the series "junk
TRACE relic wreck", Chromogenic
Development print, 18 x 22”, 2000.




“Untitled”, from the series "junk
TRACE relic wreck", Chromogenic
Development print, 18 x 22”, 2000.




“Untitled”, from the series "junk
TRACE relic wreck", Chromogenic
Development print, 18 x 22”, 2000.




“Untitled”, from the series "junk
TRACE relic wreck", Chromogenic
Development print, 22 x 18”, 2000.

The images are also studies in time, presenting "the points where human culture and nature collide" in subtle and sophisticated ways. As much investigations into the beauty of disintegration as a "cataloging of the substance of working class lives," Piazza's images are nostalgic. They not only give viewers complicated hues and textures, but also open up a realm of questions to ponder that take you beyond the frame.