Martina Sauter's "L.A." mixes film and real-life imagery. (Ambach & Rice )
In “Correspondence,” her first solo show in Los Angeles, German artist Martina Sauter brings a method she’s employed for some time to a city that is uniquely situated to appreciate it. In each of the show’s 21 photographic works, Sauter pieces together a pair of images: a grainy still, taken off a television screen, from one of three films — "The Black Dahlia," "The Trial" and "The Piano Teacher" — and an image taken somewhere in the vicinity of the artist’s studio.
Both generally depict transitional spaces and nondescript architectural details like doors, corners, hallways and stairs. One image layers over the other, the seam between them so inconspicuous in most cases that you would miss it, were the uppermost image not raised a fraction of an inch above the lower.
The appeal of the work — which is consistently intriguing, if short of dazzling — lies in the mysterious mingling of real and fictive space, and the clever play of pictorial planes. Iconic as these films may be, it is all but impossible to root the images in the fabric of a narrative; they appear rather as muddled figments: part story, part memory, part place, part photograph. The most striking compositions are flattened nearly to abstraction, an originally indexical document reduced to jostling registers of ochre-tinted color.
It is a technique that assumes a particular resonance in Los Angeles, where actual space and filmic space — reality, photography and imagination — are routinely interwoven.
Ambach & Rice, 6148 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 965-5500, through June 30. Closed Sunday and Monday. ambachandrice.com