January 13, 2011 | 3:05 pm
In terms of subject matter, Anita Bunn’s photographs couldn’t be simpler: Each depicts the top of a tree or two and the sky behind.
In terms of emotion, atmosphere and impact, not to mention light, palette and detail, as well as drama, romance and resolve, these images are as complex as art gets.
At Offramp Gallery, five midsize color prints mounted on wood panels form the centerpiece of the show, “The Sun Tells Quite Another Story.” They make Bunn appear to be a magician, a conjurer capable of making nature look fake: far sexier than usual, its beauty cranked up to a feverish intensity that would be unbearable if it were not so thrilling.
Shot just after sunset or late at night in Burbank, Griffith Park and along the L.A. River, her straightforward pictures of urban trees were not made with a flash, just the ambient city light. Bunn serves her photographs straight up, never manipulating them on a computer or enhancing their colors with special effects.
She has a sharp eye for subtlety. Energizing all of her works is a painter’s love of color, a draughtsman’s fascination with line and a sculptor’s feeling for three-dimensional form. Sugar-coated sentimentality plays no role in her pictures, whose beauty sometimes seems poisonous, not quite toxic but dangerous enough to make you anxious, alert, nervous.
In an adjoining gallery, five small photographs of clouds lack the drama of Bunn’s noir-tinged trees. The same goes for three small prints, in which she experiments with different types of lithography and photographic salt prints.
But “Measure,” a video in a back room, captures the unsettling oddness of Bunn’s best works. The tree it portrays conveys both serenity and strangeness, its branches gradually picking up speed until they sway every which way, as if each had a mind of its own and not much regard for its neighbors and compatriots.
-- David Pagel
Offramp Gallery, 1702 Lincoln Ave., Pasadena, (626) 298-6931, through Feb. 6. Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. www.offrampgallery.com
Images: Top, Anita Bunn, "Ambient #1." Bottom, Anita Bunn, "Ambient #3." Credit: Courtesy of Offramp Gallery