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Offbeat Realities

Exhibits at the Brand bring light to photographic images.

November 27, 1998|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In the current show at the Brand Library, photography has a field day, off to the side of conventionality.

Both collagist Jan Kunkle and the photographic duo of Davis and Davis rely on photography in unique ways to investigate and concoct private realities. It's not the outside world that interests them so much as new worlds of their own devising.

Kunkle, whose impressive work was seen not long ago in a group show at the Century Gallery, creates vibrant and at least slightly surreal collages. Her brightly colored works, stitched together from fragments only partially recognizable, tend to be both kinetic and a bit hermetic. A happy tension exists between the suggestion of actual space and the denial of it, just as she deftly manipulates the poles of representation and abstraction.

Davis and Davis (Scott and Denise) burrow into the miniature realm of toys, creating large color prints of macro-close-up tableaux of toys and dolls. In these strangely fascinating images, the narrow depth of field makes what is in focus of keen interest and draws us into the Lilliputian dimensions.

It's not all child's play. In "Daddy's Girl," unfocused parents stand behind a girl doll with chewed-up plastic, and we reflexively read domestic abuse into the image.

The built-in innocence is often qualified or altered, as it is in mass media, as with the sexualization of the nude doll behind "love beads" in "Candy."

At times, impending calamities are implied, as with the falling doll in "Bungee Baby" or the tack-on-the-seat trick in "Tack Boy," with its sniggering cruelty reminiscent of the "Mr. Bill" follies.

The psychological process of thinking small accounts for much of this work's power, and that shrinking sensation is the subject itself in "Snow Baby," with its small doll in glittery fake snow, set off by an even tinier plastic house. We suddenly get a sense of the existential metamorphosis of the protagonist in the cult film from the '50s "The Incredible Shrinking Man."

BE THERE

Jan Kunkle and Davis and Davis, through Dec. 5 at the Brand Library Art Galleries, 1601 W. Mountain St. Glendale. Hours: 1-9 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 1-6 p.m. Wednesday; 1-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday; (818) 548-2051.

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