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January 9 - February 15, 2003 at Grant Selwyn Fine Art, Beverly Hills

by Jody Zellen

“Aliso Village #16," 2002,
cibachrome print.

“Aliso Village #14," 2002,
cibachrome print.

“Belmont #1" 2002,
cibachrome print.

“Disney #1," 2002,
cibachrome print.

“Disney #3," 2002,
cibachrome print.

Anthony Hernandez has long been fascinated with the landscape. He began as a street photographer making 35 mm black and white images of people in the urban landscape. In the mid 1980's he moved from documenting the city to making color images of unpopulated places with a large format camera. In his 1984 series Landscapes for the Homeless, Hernandez documented dwellings and encampments where the homeless lived. Capturing the encampments without their occupants, he was able to present beauty in a known but often ignored aspect of city life in Los Angeles. Always interested in details, Hernandez has continued to photograph the less visited and less romantic aspects of the urban environment. In 1999 during a residency at the American Academy in Rome, Hernandez chose to examine the unexpected. Rather than photograph tourist icons of Rome, such as the Vatican or the Coliseum, he focused on its modern ruins.

Following the success of Pictures for Rome, Hernandez began to look at the less romantic aspects of cities closer to home. His series Pictures for Oakland (2001) depicted the rundown interiors of abandoned buildings marked for demolition. In the new and recent work on view here he has focused his camera on Los Angeles, concentrating on three distinct geographical areas. The series, Pictures for L.A. (2000 to 2002) looks at buildings in varying states of construction and deconstruction.

Aliso Village, east of downtown L.A., was a low-income housing complex that was built in the 1940s and torn down in 2000. It is here that Hernandez was born and raised. The Aliso Village images are haunting and empty. They include photographs of graffiti filled walls (Aliso Village 16) and brightly painted closets (Aliso Village 14). To make these images Hernandez would sneak into the buildings when the demolition crew was not there and roam around the vacant spaces. The images evoke memories of another time, when the rooms were furnished and the dwellings populated.

The relationship between construction and destruction is explored through the juxtaposition between the images from Aliso Village and the images from Belmont. Belmont was slated to be the largest new high school in the country. With construction underway it was discovered that the site was sitting on a hillside of methane gas. In 1999 construction was halted, and the school's future remains in limbo pending litigation.

Hernandez photographed the construction site as a series of formal images of the interior that underscore the elegance of the exposed beams and dangling wires. The images are lush abstractions--large compositions that are at once scaleless and endless. The images frame shapes and geometric pattern the camera records as it flattens receding space. In Belmont 1 the metal skeleton of 'rooms to be' line a hallway as it recedes into space, dead-ending at an orange colored wall. Hernandez moves between details (images of shelves or insulation) to more expansive views of the interior space. The images glow from within, their aura infused with the predicament of the site.

Also included in the series are photographs taken at the construction site of the new Disney Concert Hall. Hernandez was one of a handful of artists chosen to participate in a project funded by the Getty Museum to document the construction of the Hall in a non-traditional way. His images of the interior spaces find geometry of the structure--the formal beauty of criss-crossing metal supports (Disney 3) as well as the sculptural quality of an upside down sledge hammer (Disney 1).

Hernandez has elevated the discarded, the abandoned, as well as that which is in process or suspended in an entropic state into something we can admire for its own sake. Hernandez has an eye for detail and an ability to evoke order in chaos. Whether he is photographing the new or the old, he approaches his subject with the utmost respect, allowing each space to reveal what makes it significant to the mind's eye.