At first glance, Adam Ekberg’s images might appear to be documentation of some precocious high school student’s science projects: Flashlight beams zigzag between mirrors; a sparkler sputters above a frozen lake. But an aura of witty performances very quickly emerges, shot through with surrealist gravitas. A deadpan title like An aerosol container in an abandoned peach orchard (2012) does little to explain the flame erupting from the can’s nozzle, or who fired it up. And who has strung Christmas lights over that crepuscular creek? What unknown object was dropped into a glass of milk so that a balletic white blob leaps upward? (The technical finesse here is descended from the elaborate high-speed cameras Harold Edgerton invented in the 1940s to capture infinitesimal slices of time, including the ignition of an atomic explosion, and a bullet mid-flight.) In Ekberg’s photos you intuit the production crew just outside the frame, one tossing the pineapple skyward, another pushing the shutter button just as the huge fruit partially blocks the sun (Eclipse, 2012). But you also sense many unseen, unsuccessful shots, where we might see only the butt of the pineapple or a couple of stray fronds poking in from the frame edge. By photographing the vestiges of pointless human activities — setting fire to animal skulls in the desert, hanging up disco balls in snowy woods — Ekberg creates depopulated vistas that are formally lovely and emotionally dense.
Jan. 23-Feb. 14, 2015