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Steve Criqui
Untitled (Cal Donut)
at Lemon Sky

Untitled (Car Wash)

Untitled (Day Church)

Untitled (J's 2)
Empty Eden
by Eve Wood

Steven Criqui, "Noirish Days, Unrestful Nights," Jan. 5-Feb. 9, 2002, at Lemon Sky Projects and Editions, 5367 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, Ca. 90036.

In his most recent exhibition, Steven Criqui presents several digitally altered and monumentally scaled photographic works that document the bleak, excavated and otherwise forgotten monuments that pock the Los Angeles landscape.

Criqui photographs particular L.A. sites that have little or no historical relevance, but are intricately bound to the Los Angeles experience nonetheless. The largest image in the show, J's 2, depicts Johnie's coffee shop, which stands empty and dilapidated on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax like a prehistoric creature rotting in the middle of the city block.

The image is subtly manipulated, with the light from the lampposts blown out and the giant white billboard showing a ghostly glow.

In his photographs, Criqui overlaps images to create a kind of "hysterical moment" in time, disrupting our sense of the familiar landscape. Criqui has altered these images in digital imaging programs to add particular effects. In one work, long, green fern-like shoots, strange and vaguely ominous, grow in unexpected places; in another, disembodied smears and floating swatches of color seem to come out of nowhere.

In Untitled (CalDonut), these same strange fernlike extensions "grow" into the foreground of the image in which we see a row of cars, including an old VW Bug, and another bizarre illumination obstructing the rear window of a cop car. The effect is jarring and supernatural, the American Dream gone sour, dissipating before our eyes.

Untitled (Day Church) produces a similiar disjunction of space and time, the white facade of the church seemingly "built out" or entended by Criqui, who has painted the surrounding sky white in places, and added a flounce of blue that extends like a giant ribbon down the center of the picture plane. A woman's disembodied leg extends into the overlapping image, her haste disrupted, her objective cut short.

Criqui's images are strangely empty, as though all the people who might have stood beside their cars in the parking lot of the Caldonut strip mall, or walked down the street, were suddenly, inexplicably zapped, leaving behind buildings, a disquieting Eden, nightmarish and ugly.

David Pagel has said of Criqui's images, "Restless desperation fans the flames of the fires that burn brightest at the beginning of the 21st century, and Steven Criqui's mixed-media images of the grungy, undesirable no-man's land between the suburbs and the city center, between soulless blandness and uncontrollable chaos, give vivid physical form to what's left of the American Dream."

Criqui's images are available in editions, and range in price from $15,000 to $3,000 for the smaller works.

EVE WOOD is an artist and writer who lives in L.A.