Robbert Flick

April 28 — June 18, 2005


Robbert Flick: Trajectories traces the artist's career from 1969 to the present with selections from three seminal bodies of work: Midwest Diary, Arena, and Sequential Views. Trajectories confirms his place in a lineage of artists including Ed Ruscha, Robert Heinecken, and Cathy Opie, for whom the city of Los Angeles is an enduring source of inspiration. LACMA Director Andrea L. Rich praises Flick's work as "an accessible yet complex art that is visually challenging, uniquely conceptual, and technologically daring." This exhibition follows the artist's major retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The strikingly spare Midwest Diary compositions belie the complexity of the series as a whole. As he chronicled expanses of farmland and lonely stretches of road, Flick explains that he was looking for "moments in time where the parts would illuminate not just that specific moment, or a specific place, but the collective experience of coming to, stopping and moving past that place."

From 1977 to 1979, Flick documented a parking garage near his studio for the Arena series. By framing the industrial surfaces with unyielding precision, Flick transforms it from banal urban presence into an intricate study of light, shadow, and geometry — and a site of unexpected beauty. LACMA Curator Tim B. Wride acknowledges that the garage was "a self-contained environment in which traces of geographic, temporal, and spatial change could be mapped."

Increasingly dissatisfied with the single frame as "the carrier of information and the definer of context," Robbert Flick developed a breakthrough grid format termed Sequential Views. Although he began the series using a traditional still camera, L.A. Documents marked his first experiments with digital media. Flick mounts a videocamera at a 90-degree angle in his car window to capture stills while driving through Los Angeles. These vivid color photographs are printed in large-scale grids, cataloguing the juxtaposition and fragmentation of the urban landscape. Flick explains that by "tracing these trajectories and parallel passages through Los Angeles the evolution and changing demographics of the metropolis are revealed."

Robbert Flick was born in 1939 in Amersfoot, The Netherlands. He is a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellow, a Getty Scholar, a two-time National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship recipient and was awarded a COLA grant by the Cultural Affairs Department of Los Angeles. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California

The New York Times
May 6, 2005
Grace Glueck

Not content with one or two shots to record his impressions, the Dutch-born, California-based photographer Robbert Flick makes hundreds of sequential pictures, then packs the results so tightly in grid formation on big sheets that give off the vibes of a country road, a city street, barren rocks and peaks in the Mojave Desert.

Taken by a video camera mounted in his car window that shoots as he rolls along, there are color frames of a long stretch of Barr Road in Illinois, where peaceful farm acreage runs into stretches of scrub, woods and nothingness; a jarring segment of Los Angeles (Seventh Street, looking south between Alameda and Bixell) where trucks, cars, buses and commercial facades set up a numbing visual cacophony; and Long Beach Harbor, a mix of oil tanks, bridge trusses, palm trees and semi-rigs against skies of heavenly blue.

Mr. Flick's cinematic idea is that a succession of closely observed views gives a more dynamic sense of place than would a few random shots, that places are too various and idiosyncratic to be encompassed in a single photograph, brilliant as it may be. He speaks of his Barr Road pictures, for example, as "the collective experience of coming to, stopping and moving past that place."

But if you think these are obsessive, consider the black-and-white images he made in the late 1970's of an empty parking garage—exterior and interior—near his studio, a series to which he devoted two years. Shooting ramps, levels and individual car stalls; columns, floors and ceilings; lights, shadows and the geometries of the place, he produced what is surely the most poetic photographic tribute ever inspired by a parking facility. Touchingly, he and his camera gave their all.

The New Yorker
June 13, 2005

Although there's a conceptual rigor to all the landscape work that Flick has been making since the seventies, his pictures are not without wit or formal elegance. Of the three series excerpted here, the most arresting are his recent "Sequential Views" of Los Angeles, which turn videos shot from Flick's moving car into flattened movies that suggest Ed Ruscha processed by Sol LeWitt. Earlier images of a parking garage and Midwestern farmland have a familiar modernist austerity (Walker Evans, Aaron Siskind, and Lewis Baltz all come to mind), yet there's nothing retro about Flick's cool, crisp compositions.