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Review: Suburbia through Alejandro Cartagena's sharp lens

August 15, 2012|By Sharon Mizota
  • Alejandro Cartagena's "Fragmented Cities, Apodaca," 2006.
Alejandro Cartagena's "Fragmented Cities, Apodaca,"… (Alejandro Cartagena / Kopeikin…)

Oh, postwar American dream, what have you wrought? Isn’t it enough to have coated one nation in an endless spew of soulless, cookie cutter homes?

At Kopeikin Gallery, Alejandro Cartagena’s crisp photographs of new suburban developments in northern Mexico attest that clearly, it is not.

On the one hand, his images of tight, economical rows of cubes attest to the steadfast appeal of the dream — who doesn’t want a little corner of the earth to call their own? On the other, they highlight the extent to which industrial society has preyed on that simple desire, distorting it into something cold and nightmarish.

Like rectilinear dollops of frosting, the houses in Cartagena’s images have been squeezed out along the foothills and flats in neat lockstep, differentiated only by their colors or the framing of their windows. In this they’re not unlike English row houses, albeit more brutally modernist. This is suburbia taken to its logical conclusion, stripped of the details that in more upscale U.S. developments disguise the fact that one is living in a factory.

What’s most striking however is how much Cartagena’s images invoke L.A. His “Lost River” series, documenting neglected tributaries choked with trash, gravel and vegetation, could be images of the L.A. River before it succumbed to the onward march of concrete.

Although clearly on the decline, these spaces remind us of the wildness that still meanders through even the most regimented landscapes.

Kopeikin Gallery, 2766 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, (310) 559-0800, through Aug. 25. Closed Sunday and Monday. www.kopeikingallery.com

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