Mussel Rocks, California / Laura Plageman

Response to Print of Mussel Rocks, California, Laura Plageman, 2014

A craggy rock emerges in sharp relief out of the ocean. Swarms of birds descend into crashing waves. A blue sky of clouds resembles a crumpled piece of paper, discarded then retrieved. These are some of the striking images in Response, an exhibition of photographs by Laura Plageman at the DeSoto Gallery in Venice.

Most of the photos were taken at overlooks on the California coast—popular spots to pull over in the car to snap a photo. Plageman’s take on these views, however, isn’t the sort you could capture on an iPhone and post to Instagram.

She describes her process as “hands-on and sculptural.” She prints a first-generation photo—“a pretty straightforward landscape”—and lays the large print (often 40” x 50”) out on the floor or tapes it to the wall. Then she crumples and “wrestles with paper, ripping things up and using pieces,” she said. She moves around the photo-sculpture, looking through her camera until she finds an image that “feels more alive and has more energy.” Then she re-photographs the print—which is why she calls the final piece of art her “response.”

Feeding Frenzy / Laura Plageman

Feeding Frenzy, Laura Plageman, 2014

She returns to certain coastal spots often to capture them in different lights and weather. One such spot is Mussel Rock in Daly City, which is south of San Francisco and about an hour’s drive from her Oakland home. “It has a lot of layers…a lot of history. Right next to it, there’s a tunnel created in the 1800s—a failed attempt at taming that spot.”

That’s exactly what she likes about Mussel Rock. On her website, Plageman writes of her interest in “making pictures that examine the natural world as a scene of mystery, beauty, and constant change—transformed both by human presence and by its own design.”

Response is on view at the DeSoto Gallery through November 9.

Cloud Study No. 1 / Laura Plageman

Cloud Study (No. 1), Laura Plageman, 2014

Response to Print of Pelican Rock / Laura Plageman

Response to Print of Pelican Rock, California, Laura Plageman, 2014

Response to Print of McWay Falls, California / Laura Plageman

Response to Print of McWay Falls, California, Laura Plageman, 2014

All images are courtesy of De Soto Gallery. Each piece is an archival pigment print with editions variable.

Text of this post © Zócalo Public Square. All rights reserved.

This post is part of the series Open Art, an arts engagement project of Zócalo Public Square and the Getty.
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