Leah Ollman, LA Times: Ben Buswell

Review: Ben Buswell at Samuel Freeman

By Leah Ollman
L.A. Times
April 22, 2016

Portland, Ore.-based Ben Buswell's first solo art show in Los Angeles lands at the intersection of photography, drawing and sculpture. Each medium doesn't so much accommodate the others as it asserts its own, generating a friction that's optically and conceptually intriguing.

In a series titled "Event," Buswell incises lines into dark, glossy photographic prints. The striations read as white on black and invoke rugged surfaces (rocks, or ripples of the sea) that may or may not correspond to the photographic images beneath. Buswell joins two or four of the "embellished photographs" together, tilting them at slight angles forward or back, up or down, echoing the faceted planes delineated within. The beautiful, curious effect is of motion stilled and reimagined, one image (or type of image) created through the cancellation of another.

For another group of works, Buswell scores photographs with neat horizontal lines, then peels away alternating strips. That leaves printed strands, divested nearly entirely of their representational capacity, to hang like decorative fringe down the center or along the edges of paired panels.

Buswell coaxes much that is new and elegant out of the familiar. Only rarely does his work get weighed down by an overzealousness with material invention, as in two clumsy pieces involving tape and foam. More typical is the mysterious grace of the show's centerpiece, "I Do Not Belong to the Sky (Horizon)," a 4-foot-high, 40-foot-wide panorama that evokes at once crumpled metal, a ribbon of water and a slice of the atmosphere, a sculpture invested with both the complex ambiguities of photography and the gestural power of the drawn mark.