Gallery Glance: “Ahram Park: Almost Nothing” at Haw Contemporary Stockyards

“Illusion Dweller,” by Ahram Park, is part of his exhibit “Almost Nothing” opening May 17 at Haw Contemporary Stockyards. (from the artist and Haw Contemporary)

Last seen in KC in a 2017 solo show at Haw Contemporary, former Kansas City artist Ahram Park, now of Los Angeles, returns to the gallery May 17 with a new body of work inspired by his current surroundings.

“Over the past two years, I have been walking around my neighborhood in Los Angeles, cutting leaves and photographing them,” Park explained in a recent email. “Most of the cuttings are made on site, but some are made back in my living room studio.”

Photographing in nature is something Park has done before. In 2014, he exhibited black-and-white photographs of the Kansas countryside in the exhibit “The Center is a Moving Target” at the former Kemper at the Crossroads. Park transformed the unremarkable gravel roads and scrubby vegetation of his selected sites by using a leaf blower to create piles of dust, and then waiting until the wind dispersed the dust into evanescent clouds to snap his shot.

The combination of sunlight and dust lent those images a transcendent aspect, in contrast to the sense of violation conveyed in the “Almost Nothing” photographs. Park’s trims and cuts are not enhancements of these living plants; rather, they serve as a sinister metaphor of human interference with nature.

In contrast to the depredations of insects, some of Park’s cuts are virtual amputations; others endow the plants with an unnatural geometric conformity. A scallop becomes a square; the spiky fronds of a fern are reduced to a circle. The center of a fleshy, arrowhead-shaped leaf is removed, leaving a rectangular window. As artworks, the images are seductively beautiful thanks to Park’s command of lighting and composition. But their message speaks to unsettled times.

“I began making these a few days after the (presidential) election,” Park said, “when I wondered how the disconnect of lived experience (phenomenology) could be made into pictures.”

“Ahram Park: Almost Nothing” opens May 17 at Haw Contemporary Stockyards, 1600 Liberty St., and continues through June 19. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday – Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. For more information, 816.842.5877 or www.hawcontemporary.com.

Alice Thorson

Alice Thorson is the editor of KC Studio. She has written about the visual arts for numerous publications locally and nationally.

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