Urban Panoramas: Through the Photographer’s Lens


Soo Kim's Midnight Reykjavik#8, 2005, printed 2007. Layered, hand-cut chromogenic print 48 x 48 in.

by Caroline Newman

Spend a few hours at the Getty and travel half-way around the world, with diverse perspectives of urban life through the art of three photographers in Urban Panoramas:  Opie, Liao, Kim.  Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao’s large, horizontal, color photographs depict movement through the busy streets of New York.  By compositing images together, Liao is able to produce detailed panoramic views in his photographs.  He states in the audio that each work contains about twelve shots.  Liao crisply focuses on the buildings and advertisements.  The pedestrians are blurred and unidentifiable but usually remain the center of the photograph.  The people act as a river of water flowing between buildings.  Liao is able to successfully recreate the atmosphere of New York City in these vivid and captivating photographs.

Catherine Opie’s black and white photographs of mini-malls exhibit the different identities that are present in the Los Angeles community.  Who knew one little building on the corner could contain such a vast variety of ethnic food?  Opie sees these mini-malls as urban landscapes of Los Angeles.  There is an exploration of how identity is structured within each storefront.  Text, images, flags, and food are all examples of the types of differences that co-exist in such small areas of Los Angeles.  Where Liao acknowledges the importance of pedestrians in urban life, Opie, on the contrary, creates interesting images of mini-malls without people, confirming Los Angeles as a more automobile culture.

Elements of sculpture begin to form in Soo Kim’s work from a series called “Midnight Reykjavik.”  In each piece Kim has layered two photographs taken of the city at midnight during the summer solstice.  Due to the time and season, the streets are bright but somewhat foggy and also contain no people.  Kim uses a cutting tool as part of her artistic process leaving what appears to be the skeleton of the structure of buildings.  Looking through the cutout areas buildings are visible in the photograph underneath.  A shadow forms between the two images because they are not completely flat.  Kim’s geometric images of buildings and streets contain a sculptural quality which successfully creates a 3-D experience of Reykjavik.

Urban Panoramas gives insight into the different perspectives of these three artists on life in three very different but equally appealing cities.  Urban Panoramas:  Opie, Liao, Kim runs through June 6, 2010 at the Getty Museum.

6 Responses to “Urban Panoramas: Through the Photographer’s Lens”

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