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"Trajectories: The Photographic Work of Robbert Flick"
2004-09-12 until 2004-01-09
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Los Angeles, CA, USA

Born in Amersfoort, Holland, Robbert Flick’s artistic practice is urban and uniquely Los Angeles in its conceptual approach to landscape photography. From September 12, 2004, through January 9, 2005, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACMA, presents Trajectories: The Photographic Work of Robbert Flick, the first major retrospective of works by the pioneering Los Angeles photographer. Arranged chronologically, the 80 works chosen to trace the artist’s career from the late 1960s to the present follow Flick’s aesthetic and conceptual progression from straight black-and-white landscape imagery to color digital imagery. The exhibition focuses on various trajectories that define Flick’s work, giving the viewer the opportunity to examine the artist’s aesthetic development while simultaneously charting the conceptual and philosophical impact of contemporary culture on photography, landscape, geography, and technology.

A Getty Scholar (1996/97) and Djerassi Foundation Artist-in-Residence (1989), Flick is a two-time recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and was awarded a COLA Grant (1999/2000) by the Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Los Angeles. “The visual and conceptual sweep of work by this conceptually challenging and visually innovative artist has never been examined in a thorough and inclusive manner; this exhibition will remedy this oversight,” says LACMA Photography Curator Tim B. Wride.

Trajectories: The Photographic Work of Robbert Flick includes selected images from several key bodies of work–the first time that many of the works are to be exhibited together to trace the maturation of an artist and his practice of capturing the geography of place.

This first portion of the exhibition highlights work from Flick’s years as an art student in Vancouver, B.C. and in Los Angeles, CA, including selections from Canadian Urban & Nature Studies and L.A. Diary. Time as a Footstep, an elegant and meticulously sequenced photo essay, places the artist’s photography in the landscape tradition of Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, and Minor White. In 1967, however, Flick began to concentrate on the conceptual and receptive properties of landscape photography after moving to Los Angeles to study photography at UCLA.

L.A. Diary traces his visual maturation as he attempts to come to terms with the alien environment of Los Angeles during his graduate studies. In L.A. Diary, Flick begins layering images, recorded one atop another, so that their confluence in the final print is as much a trace of activity as it is a serendipitous celebration of the “simultaneity of events, the synchronicity” of life in the city. This understanding of the difference between time and framing of “moment” became crucial to the manner and the conceptual rigor with which Flick would approach his subsequent work—all of which becomes apparent in the following sections of the exhibition.

In the second section of the exhibition, Flick’s interest in images as carriers of meaning causes him to employ new pictorial strategies. In 1971, Flick was appointed as assistant professor of photography at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign and once again used his artistry to come to terms with different environs, the Midwest’s flat topography and farmlands. LACMA has chosen selections from Flick’s Midwest Diary (1971–1976), to demonstrate Flick’s artistic response: a strikingly urban representation of rural landscape clearly fostered by his time in Los Angeles.

Flick returned to Los Angeles in 1976 to accept a faculty position at the University of Southern California’s School of Fine Arts only to discover a Los Angeles landscape vastly changed from his years spent as a graduate student. Again, Flick uses the camera to reacquaint himself with the cultural and physical geography of Los Angeles. As is apparent in Inglewood Diary and Arena Series, Flick galvanized his strategy of sequencing images, and in L.A. Doubles he began pairing works from different and oftentimes divergent series in order to create visual and conceptual relationships.

The denouement of this exhibition comes to fruition by way of an artistic breakthrough. Grid-format sequential views provided Flick with multiple access to place and images that were visually related but physically apart. Works from the Sequential Views, SV14/80 Manhattan Beach, Looking West from Vista and SV012A180, Downtown Los Angeles Between Temple and Fourth Looking North, follow Flick’s formula of an existing grid of intersections of north/south and east/west streets based on Flick’s walking of predetermined routes while making exposures at geographic and temporal intervals.

The conceptual and visual opportunities of digital applications provided Flick with an interactive technological shift which precipitated a fundamental reevaluation of the artist’s assumptions about the aesthetic and functional parameters of his work. In L.A. Documents (1996–present), Flick identified a series of “trajectories”–or major cartographic and cultural arteries that bisect diverse communities and histories–and “segments”–adjacent series of parallel streets or related vistas–that provide a physical, cultural, socio-economic, and historical geography of the Los Angeles region. He then used Hi-8 video to capture his “trajectories” and “segments” the very way he was experiencing them: by driving in his car. After digitally transferring the work, Flick sped up or slowed down the rate of each moment within a fine-art context and sensibility and chose certain frames to become part of his sequential grid. Trajectories presents selections from L.A. Documents with installations of color prints, video images, and interactive computer installations.

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