A dual show now at SF Camerawork offers two distinct visions of broken but sturdy worlds, images that seem to hover on the edge of extinction and disappearance.
Matt Bryans’ beautiful and haunting “Breaking the Land” consists of two works, delicate and ghostly landscapes pieced together from torn and erased newspaper.
Bryans has taped together thousands of small images, partially erased and blurred, from British and Norwegian newspapers to create sprawling intricate and ethereal wall-size panoramas; they are at once photographs, collages, assemblages and installations.
The resulting terrain appears flattened out, part of the crumpled surface itself, while also expanding into varying and artificial illusions of depth.
“Breaking the Land” is London-based Bryans’ first West Coast solo exhibition. He describes deliberately pushing his materials — in this case old newsprint — to the breaking point, just shy of dissolving. The worn paper gives shape and texture to the photographs they create, while making the images appear to teeter on the edge of existence.
“I’m presenting something of the content, but at the same time without any reverence, so I’m almost working against it,” Bryans says. “I’m saying this is something to look at, but just as it’s almost falling apart, and that’s the tension I like.”
The companion show, “Photohouse,” by Bay Area photographer Michael Garlinton, provides a temporal counterweight to Bryans’ gossamer images. The installation features thousands of black-and-white portraits, covering the exterior and interior of a large-scale model Victorian house.
The portraits, which Garlinton took during a series of cross-country trips, are set in dark frames covered with a thick resin gloss, making the house appear immovable, earth-bound. Echoing Bryans’ adjoining work, Garlinton’s photographs evoke a world slipping away, dissolving despite the house’s leaden aura.
Garlinton credits his travels for the opportunity to photograph a variety of people, many of whom seem to exist out of step and out of time, and in this work he envisions uniting them under a common roof.
“The human need for security and a place to call home is not always possible in a world of chaos and uncertainty,” Garlinton says, “but everywhere dreamers dream. ‘Photohouse’ represents a hearth for all those dreams.”
IF YOU GO
Where: SF Camerawork, 657 Mission St., second floor, S.F.
When: Noon to 5 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays; closes Aug. 20
Admission: $5, students and seniors $2, members free
Contact: (415) 512-2020, www.sfcamerawork.org