Urban means two things -- buildings and people. And photographer Michael Grecco has shot people, people, people. His long and storied career in professional editorial and portrait photography has taken him to the most exotic, far flung locations on earth and its greatest historic and bustling capitals. But in his 15-year project Urban Landscape Grecco instead presents largely depopulated views focusing on the architectural character of the city’s soul.
The series has developed over some 15 years, during which time he carried a panoramic film camera with him literally around the globe on commercial shoots, using his downtime to wander, alone at night, eyes and lens cap open to adventure. Unconventional perspectives on iconic edifices, burst and beacons of vibrant color, and eccentric, seductive light both atmospheric and crafted thusly inspired him to create his most personal, emotionally rich, narrative and surreal work of all.
This January, Leica Gallery Los Angeles and Converge (a new joint project of photoLA and Month of Photography LA) present a large-scale installation featuring curated images from the Urban Landscape series alongside After the Audition -- a fresh new subseries of the portfolio created especially for the occasion. The first time Leica’s LA space hosts a solo show by any photographer, Grecco’s is not only an eclectic international collection, but now is also an outright love letter to the City of Angels.
Culled from the always-growing Urban Landscape portfolio, Grecco’s images offer edificial armatures supporting sweeping blocks of luminous pigments that announce themselves in rays and swoops, droplets chains and gestural diffusions, operatic color stories and light-ray origamis that coyly obscure and reveal unique details about the buildings and streets they festoon. From locales as diverse as a bank in New York, a footbridge in Arles, a retro walkway at LAX airport, the holiday glimmer outside a Nike store on Wilshire, and the nightlife of space-age mannequins at a NYC Apple store, Grecco collects the stories of night in the city.
In the most recent of the show’s images, Grecco has made a deliberate evolution toward the construction of his own original story, beginning with a new work made in Australia, presenting a crowd moving across a sci-fi worthy neon stairway, a single figure sat still, transfixed by his mobile device, whose light is blaring and blinding in the dark jumble of nightlife. A witty homage to Duane Michals’ Illuminated Man, the light of this boy’s selfie literally erases his identity.
The better to further engender the overt narrative element that differentiates After the Audition from previous Urban Landscape iterations, Grecco created the remaining, brand new, images (using a Leica of course) on the streets of this industry town, using a single model and ambient architectural lighting to create an inherently cinematic, archetypal, LA story. In After the Audition we see the lonely musings of a still-glammed up actress who “didn’t get the part.” We read her profound emptiness in her face and body, and in the wistful, mysterious, familiar/exotic places she lingers -- the Burden sculpture at LACMA, the bizarre shell of the Petersen Automotive Museum, the neon adornment on REDCAT as seen from the Broad’s back lawn, the filamental softness of Disney Hall’s exterior curves, and finally, an underground parking lot, because in this city, all walks end at the car.
Grecco’s appreciation for the impact of architectural surface and scale inheres in his decision to print these panoramic, experiential, atmospheric works at an impressive, even daring, 8 x 3-foot scale, which recreates something of the original experience in the context of the gallery space, both honoring the quality of the location and reinforcing the artist’s perspective on the moment. Grecco suspects that he might have been an architect if he had not become a photographer, such is the depth of his appreciation for the way epically designed structures of glass, steel and stone articulate volumes of space using the graphics of light, space, and motion. And the way that architectural encounters -- from the most ancient to the most modern, from the utilitarian to the operatic, the landmark to the fantastical -- can still take a person by surprise.
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