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Art Review

March 20, 1998|LEAH OLLMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Poetic Images: A roomful of Juan Carlos Alom's photographs is the visual equivalent of a slim, rich volume of poetry, each image easily savored for its dense concentration of emotion, pain and beauty. The artist, who lives in his native Havana, titles the suite of images in the main room of his show at Iturralde Gallery "El Libro Oscuro," for its pages constitute a book both dark and obscure.

In his staged and manipulated tableaux, Alom favors partial revelations--figures seen incomplete, text is cut off--and elusive fulfillments, such as birds whose wings are screwed to a wooden pallet, or a face that strives to kiss its mirror image but falls short. No narrative announces itself within the 20 seductive prints here, but Alom returns again and again to evocative metaphors of capture and release.

Images of a shackled leg or the flightless bird suggest a confinement so absolute and symbolic that they can also read emblematically, as political critiques, or as personal manifestoes of emotional attachment and estrangement.

An installation of six photographs hanging from the ceiling of a side gallery has a somber, devotional quality to it that echoes in several of the "El Libro Oscuro" prints as well. Another installation, less affecting, reeks of Surrealist influence and demonstrates how fluidly the sexual, sensual and spiritual intermix for Alom. Icons, poems, laments--however they're described, Alom's photographs are deeply and immediately felt.

*

* Iturralde Gallery, 154 N. La Brea Ave., (213) 937-4267, through April 11.

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