Kate Ballis, Hypercolour Fantasy: Infra Realism
Garis & Hahn
On view through August 25th
By Genie Davis
Hypercolour Fantasy: Infra Realism at Garis & Hahn through August 25th, is a remarkable exhibition. The almost neon, saturated pinks and purples here are dazzling; they re-shape Southern California iconic images into something freshly bathed in the hot color of a SoCal sunset on acid.
Photographer Kate Ballis is based in Melbourne, and this is her first U.S. exhibition. But it feels quintessentially American: not just the images she’s shot, but the bright palette; it is something Angelyne herself would approve, all candy colors and seduction, with something stranger and darker within this world. Perhaps it takes an outsiders eye to truly capture the region, but capture it she has in 13 large works that remake landscapes in a surreal and lush light.
One of the most interesting things about Ballis’ series is the desert setting. We are used to seeing images like these awash in a golden light, or sepia tones, perhaps. By rendering them in these strongly feminine, bold pinks-purples-reds, Ballis transforms them. The scenes still evoke heat and radiance and the intensity of the sun, but these are images from an upside down visual world.
To shape it, the artist used a converted full-spectrum mirrorless camera with a variety of infrared filters to create work that was inspired by Richard Mosse. Inspired, yes, but entirely her own.
In “Peekaboo,” Ballis gives us a Corvette in mid-striptease from its car cover. Parked in front of a classic mid-century moderne home in Palm Springs, the palms are purple, the ground a hot pink. We are in a la-la land of our own making. Her “Barbie” offers a similar conceit: a Palm Springs moderne-style home whose dimensions and hot pink color would be the perfect home for Barbie post her divorce from Ken. “California” is the perfect jewel of a photograph, the side and side view mirror of a sleek car, depicted in glossy, slick deep pink with silver metallic edges peeking through. It is our state and state of mind: car culture, blissful embodiment of it, a sexy dream.
“Birds,” gives us a cherry-red swimming pool on which two inflatable swans have made it to the concrete shore. Framed against purple shrubs, the swans seem almost real, a tease of palette and light. “Ace,” the exterior of the Palm Springs hotel, seems sterile. No one in the parking lot, chairs empty under sunshades. It has a faintly apocalyptic edge to it. “Ascension,” a brilliant x-ray sunset of Joshua Tree, may tell us where everyone has gone. Perhaps they’ve risen into the sky, or entered a different sort of realm altogether. And in “Liberace,” the performer’s home decorated with cherubs, the palms behind the house a pastel blue, we are looking into a gated enclave, Heaven or Hell, we can’t quite enter yet. It is in this bright netherworld that we are stranded, lured here, entranced.