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Review: Kelly Barrie's wondrous photographs join engineering, play

March 21, 2013|By Leah Ollman
  • Kelly Barrie's photograph, "Down Hill Pipe, c.1978," at Marine Contemporary.
Kelly Barrie's photograph, "Down Hill Pipe, c.1978,"… (Kelly Barrie / Marine Contemporary )

Kelly Barrie's show at Marine Contemporary starts in the parking lot with a 10-foot fiberglass skate ramp, a steep comma that mimics the curve and rise of a swimming pool.

Barrie built the portable ramp (which appears to be getting some use) as a homage to a humble icon of skate culture from the late '70s. His re-creation evokes a cultural moment but not much more, and the studies for it are only tangentially interesting.

The show lifts off thanks to a second group of images based on another functional/sculptural form attractive to skaters: the huge concrete pipes of the Central Arizona Project, a massive water-delivery system.

Barrie, who lives and works in L.A., uses archival photographs of the pipes (some 22 feet in diameter) as source material for his own photographs, generated through an unusual, performative process.

He manipulates photo-luminescent powder and colored pigments on black seamless paper, drawing an image with his feet and other tools. He then makes multiple photographs of the self-illuminated drawing and digitally stitches them together into a continuous whole.

The images of telescoping cylinders may have been inspired by industrial forms, but they gleam with metaphoric possibility -- as cosmic tunnels and tight close-ups of an eye.

Creative engineering collided with improvisational play when the Arizona pipes were adopted by skaters. Barrie's images, too, wondrously fuse those seemingly disparate forces.

Marine Contemporary, 1733-A Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 399-0294, through April 6. Closed Sunday and Monday. www.marinecontemporary.com

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