Romer Young Gallery is pleased to announce its first solo exhibition with San Francisco-based artist Bessma Khalaf, Torch Song. Khalaf presents a new series of photographs, sculpture and video that explore the boundaries of landscape, place and image. There will be an opening reception for the artist on Thursday, March 14th, from 6 to 9pm.
Khalaf’s sublime, black and white, natural world landscapes offer up beauty and uncertainty. Using various processes of degradation (burning, smashing, consuming) the artist re-imagines the natural world, taking the viewer beyond the nihilism of destruction, into the generative possibilities that are offered by voids and absences. Troubling, and all too relevant, the photographs include the destruction of nature in their process; in many of the works, the source of that violence is fire. Each photograph contains burned areas where Khalaf sets afire a section of the composition. Leaving part of the photo to burn away, she then extinguishes it and photographs whatever is left over, creating new images. While suggesting destruction, Khalaf’s unmaking doesn’t spiral entirely into nothingness, but leaves an absence as a relic of her action. Ultimately she demonstrates that it is still possible to discover unexpected beauty in destruction and, in so doing, opens up the viewer’s sense of the sublime.
When pitting herself against the overwhelming vastness of her surroundings, or the largess of romantic landscape, Khalaf mixes mysticism, futility, and endurance. Rather than attacking images, Khalaf intervenes on the landscape itself; the results suggest the difference between images and the world. Born in Iraq, Bessma Khalaf emigrated to San Diego, California in 1990 just before the first Gulf War. She earned her Bachelor degree from San Diego State University in 2002 and a Masters of Fine Arts in photography from the California College of Art in 2007. Her work has been exhibited locally and nationally. She currently lives and works in Oakland, California.