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June 8 - July 6, 2002 at Fototeka, Echo Park

by Jody Zellen

“Camino a Roma: Arch with Gardens,” 2000-2001, type C print.

To make his recent images, Los Angeles based photographer David Franck traveled to Rome. It was a research trip during which Franck shot numerous photographs of Rome's changing urban landscape. He focused on the old as well as the new. Rather than relying on the decisive moment with the hopes of capturing a perfect image, Franck shot quickly, knowing that the photos he made would later be projected, combined and collaged to create the final work. When in Rome one can't help but be seduced by the age of the buildings, the intensity of the sun, the gesture of the statues.

In his previous bodies of work Franck juxtaposed images of Los Angeles' natural as well as man-made landscape: the palm trees, the expanse of sky, the setting sun against the blue ocean, the mix of architectures. In that work the artist also projected disparate images against large pieces of ripped paper, creating frenetic collages that were indicative of the pace of life in Los Angeles. In his new works of Rome the tone is somber, the pace less hurried, yet the images and density of layering are just as intense.

“Camino a Roma: Street Scene,” 2000-2001, type C print.

Franck is interested in making something new from that which exists. He always begins with images he shoots, yet those images only become raw materials. Rather than allow one image to capture a scene, Franck combines six. Each of his horizontal, panoramic images is a collage of projections made from a series of slides onto backdrop paper. Images fuse with each other, scale shifts and multple perspectives often result. Franck picks up on these random occurrences and pushes them to their limits. Simultaneity and a Cubist fracturing of space are explored. As our eyes move from element to element within the photographs we not only have the sense of moving through time, but also of traveling through a compressed space. The views look up and down, inside and out within a single image.

“Camino a Roma: Saint with Cupolas,” 2000-2001, type C print.
In Room with a View a woman gazes from her window. The buildings alongside her recede to the left and right. Fused within this image is another view that looks down on the city. We see the church of St. Peter’s in the distance. Are we seeing what the woman sees? In Arch with Gardens our eyes are lead down the center of the image through seemingly endless archways. This corridor is flanked by an image of interior grouping of columns going off at impossible angles, as well as by exterior facades. Franck has rendered an impossible space, a space that is impenetrable. Is it a dead end or a new beginning?

In many of Franck's photographs we recognize fragments of statues and buildings. There is no denying this is Rome, but what about Rome are we invited to see anew? Franck is interested in where the historical and the new merge, as if in a dream. The images Franck fabricates seem to exist as a dream. Because the original images are projected and collaged, hard edges blur, opaque surfaces become transparent and, as Franck has suggested, "markers of the past meld into the modern city." In Street Scene the red shoe and plastic bag in the hand of a contemporary urban shopper are seen in relation to the pointed gestures of two classical Roman sculptures. As the modern women walk left, they'll miraculously move from an exterior to interior space.

In the digital world, where so much is possible, it is often necessary to set limits. Franck sets clear parameters for each of his series of photographs and works within self-imposed rules. To make each of the images in the suite titled Cammino a Roma, he selected and fused six pictures (avoiding the use of a computer altogether) from hundreds of individual shots, looking for where the images would come together formally and conceptually to create for us a new vision of the Eternal City.

“Camino a Roma: Mural,” 2001-2002, type C print.