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Three Acts.

Photographs by John Divola. Essay by David Campany. Interview by Jan Tumlir.
Aperture, New York, 2006. 144 pp., 38 color and 62 duotone illustrations, 11x9¼".

John Divola: Three Acts gathers projects completed between 1974 and 1978. The work uses change as raw material-both the shifting landscape of the Los Angeles area and the boundary-testing art climate of the late 1970s. In Vandalism (the first of the three 'acts'), Divola made compositions in abandoned houses in L.A. using spray-paint, found debris and the photographic frame. The corners of rooms oscillate between deep and flat space, as mark-making reinforces the image surface and layers of marks evoke time. The images call to mind both the wily illusions of Mark McFadden and the process-oriented, decaying interiors of Francesca Woodman's work. The second project, LAX NAZ, explores a neighborhood bought out by the expanding airport as a noise buffer. Prior to demolition, the empty houses of this no-man's land were broken into and repurposed by vagrant and photographer alike. Divola is more anthro-pologist than action painter in this second act, recording the evidential remains of reinhabitance by trespassers. Moments of breaking and entering are suspended in time by broken glass and by photograph. This project ends with Ruscha-esque color diptychs of the destruction of these sanctuaries for the unsanctioned. In the last act, Zuma, the artist sustained interventions within a beach house that deteriorates over time. Luscious color images use the walls as a frame for picturesque seascapes. The walls, like the images, at times act as windows to the world and at times are decorated surfaces with oddly pristine posters of sunsets. Three Acts brings together multiple projects in their order of inquiry with an abundance of images that shows the voracious process and evolution of ideas in the work. This process-orientation is a fitting reflection of the work itself, and an interview with the artist by Jan Tumlir deepens the insight. A brief description of the circumstances of each project might have been helpful, and the borderless image on the cover misses a design oppor-tunity to reinforce the way that the book is a third frame on Divola's ephemeral view. An essay by David Campany connects the work with its art-world context and also intriguingly with forensics. Visceral meets conceptual in this work that explores intersections between painting, performance, installation, and anthropology, via the ever hybrid medium photography. The timing of this publication, as many emerging artists are children of the 70s by year of birth and artistic lineage, offers perspective. As David Campany explains, "He is neither an artist using photo-graphy nor an art photographer. Perhaps now, as the last traces of that once very real distinction begin to disappear, we can see this work for what it was and what it is." JULIE ANAND

This review was originally published in the Fall 2006 issue of the photo-eye Booklist. To learn more about the Booklist click here.
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