Wendy Burton's evocative photographs document a part of the American landscape that is not usually associated with that country's shiny new facade. Her work features abandoned homes and buildings set like gemstones in areas where desolate wilderness merges with unkempt lawns. These are undeniably compelling subjects, saturated in the sort of rural collapse that city dwellers find quaint and picturesque. Yet the morbid lyricism of Burton's tone is suggestive rather than judgmental, privileging the florid decrepitude of the structures' current state over their previous occupancy. They hold an almost archaeological fascination for the viewer, inevitably an outsider, promising the discovery of an important story that one must finish for oneself. Perhaps this marks the beginning of a new socio-architectural phenomenon: the American ruin. Implicitly supported by a sensibility at once Romantic and nihilist, Burton's most recent show, Trace Elements II, presented anonymous narratives of loss. The works were literary in their mechanisms, reliant in equal measure on intricate accidents of form and the symbolism of implied narrative. An aggressive silence encompassed the sickly sweet smell of decay, the low rustling of scavenger insects, the encroachment of wild grass, and the unopposed progress of creeping vines. The works could be read as quasi-political comments on the postindustrial reclamation of lawns and clearings, but they instilled in equal measure a desire to discover the unknowable reason why a house remains unoccupied for generations. In Empty House #25 whitewashed wood siding and spindly arabesques of vines and branches in winter hibernation stood as one, inseperably, huddled close together as if for warmth. Their fragile masses were sandwiched between the unrelenting whiteness of the twinned sky and snow-covered earth. The entire image seemed built, like a house of cards, from its own negative spaces, indistinguishable from the solid objects that surrounded and defined one another. The photograph was a neat metaphor for the conceptual framework of the work as a whole - for the construction of history and nostalgia on behalf of long-departed strangers, meanings built on cobwebs and ghost stories.


Craig Krull Gallery pulls out the big guns for its season opener, with concurrent solo exhibitions from two of its most accomplished artists. Wendy Burton's long-standing passion for architectural photographs that document modern American "ruins" is seen in two new bodies of work, one examining the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Dennis Hopper picks up his creative thread as photographer and painter with rich visual dialogs between the smooth colors fields of mid-century abstraction (expressed as blocky anti-graffiti wall patches) and not-so-smooth images of inner-city social turmoil. Both series, while following diverse strategies, get straight to the point: there's beauty everywhere you just need the patience to look.