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Art Review

September 05, 1997|SUSAN KANDEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Seeing Double: Carol Bishop's "Fantome: Memory and Dream" at Form Zero Architectural Gallery consists of a series of double-exposure photographs, which create the illusion that various cultural monuments--Chartres Cathedral, Trajan's Column, the Chrysler Building--are being reflected in the sparkling glass of I.M. Pei's Louvre Pyramid.

Sepia-toned, as if to suggest a certain nostalgia or dreaminess, these images fashion a series of predictable ironies. One of the most representative depicts the scaffolding of Pei's Pyramid as imposing an X over the facade of the Louvre's 17th century Pavilion Richelieu, or the new vengefully eradicating the old, at least symbolically.

This kind of juxtaposition has long been a staple of avant-garde practice. It is explicitly designed to shock.

Yet just as Pei's Pyramid, like the Eiffel Tower before it, generated vast controversy only to settle into utter complicity with the voracious demands of tourism, so has aesthetic play like this lost its edge. And in an era of ubiquitous image processing, when anyone with access to a mid-range computer and programs like Adobe Photoshop can morph, mix and layer snapshots, these images can't even purport to be transgressive on the level of technique.

The idea of interrogating the nature of monuments at the close of the 20th century is an interesting one. But Bishop hasn't come up with anything substantive to say on the subject.

That doesn't mean the photographs don't have their charm. They're actually quite lovely, especially if you're already partial to Pei's exquisitely crisscrossed network of cables.

* Form Zero Architectural Gallery, 2433 Main St., Santa Monica, (310)450-0222, through Sept. 28. Closed Monday.

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