William Larson in Philly

William Larson (b. 1942) is a photographer and videographer whose work takes a conceptual approach to dissecting meaning behind recorded images.  He is based out of Philadelphia, PA.  His current show, which is comprised of two separate installations at Gallery 339, is at times both solitary and mesmerizing.

“The Cut /” in the first room is comprised of a series of photographic images that integrate cut film strips with overlays of shapely color, obscuring and at times elucidating certain editing selections not of Larson’s hand, but of the original director’s.  Each image has a totemic quality due to the film strips’ orientation on the page, and made me feel as if Larson wanted to be both a creator and destroyer of worlds of meaning with them.  Because Larson chooses to work in this field where narrative is of necessity, his editing choices focus mainly on where there is a larger visual divergence between two or more frames.  Being a child of the video era, I frequently caught myself trying to peer through the transparencies of the colored shapes to see what happened next.  These works are artifacts of interpretation, and time should be given on part of the viewer for them to divulge all their small jokes and tacit implications.  The only problem arose when I felt that a few of the constructions became more about the shapes placed over the film strip than about the images themselves.

“Serif”, a video playing in the back of the Gallery, is perhaps one of the most mesmerizing video works I have seen in Philadelphia to date.

Serif by William Larson from Alexander Conner on Vimeo.

No series of images is projected for more than five seconds before the screen goes blank, but each contribute to a spooky narrative that winds itself through seemingly disparate imagery.  The film takes on human being’s awareness of our capacity for self-destruction, our blind belief in the righteousness of progress and hesitancy to hinder it, as well as our apprehension for when chance is involved in any situation, and applies it to an ominous soundtrack.  A serif, being the smaller but terminal mark made on a letter during it’s construction lends me to view this work as a eulogy for the less advantageous aspects of human beings’ construction of our environment.

William Larson’s show is well-rounded and very engaging.  I will make sure to visit it again before it closes, and only wish there had been more of it.  The show runs through January 28th at Gallery 339.