Renowned artist Julian Charrière‘s eagerly anticipated solo exhibition, “Buried Sunshine,” will be unveiled at Sean Kelly, Los Angeles September 14 – November 4. The exhibition delves into the intertwined histories of Los Angeles and the discovery of petroleum in the late 19th century, a pivotal event that industrialized the region and transformed it into the second-largest city in the United States. Through a combination of film, sculptures, and heliographic photographs, Charrière sheds light on the petroleum industry’s impact and the burning of lithic landscapes, while drawing parallels between Hollywood’s image-making machine and our dependence on fossil fuels.
Unearthing the Mythos of the City
“Buried Sunshine” uncovers the essence of Los Angeles as a city built not only by hydrocarbons but upon them. With over 5000 active oil wells concealed throughout the city, Charrière’s new series, “Buried Sunshines Burn,” employs heliography—an early photographic technique—to create imprints of local oil fields on polished stainless-steel plates. Using light-sensitive emulsion infused with tar from California’s natural reserves, Charrière offers a unique perspective of oil fields from above, showcasing the city’s dependence on this energy source.
Cosmic Journeys and Primordial Ferns
Charrière’s film, “Controlled Burn,” takes viewers on a cosmic voyage through time, traversing landscapes of imploding fireworks. Shot using a first-person drone, the film encompasses open pit coal mines, decommissioned oil rigs, and abandoned cooling towers. Amidst the smoke and fire, implosions are juxtaposed with images of primordial ferns and moths that evolved during the carboniferous geological period. Charrière utilizes these images as symbols of both the vitality of fossil fuels and the imprint they’ve left on our collective imagination.
Obsidian Sculptures and Ancestral Meanings
The exhibition also features two monumental obsidian sculptures, “Thickens, pools, flows, rushes, slows.” Crafted from volcanic glass formed from Earth’s molten core, the sculptures incorporate polished concave disks. Charrière draws on the material’s historical use as a means of divination, connecting it to ancient civilizations. Obsidian’s dark allure mirrors contemporary technological screens, reflecting a potential portal to other times and realms.
A Confluence of Art and Ecological Concerns
“Buried Sunshine” expands upon Charrière’s exploration of humanity’s relationship with the world and its impact on us. By intertwining Los Angeles’s industrial history with its iconic image-making, Charrière creates an immersive experience that prompts reflection on our connection with the materials that power our lives. The exhibition uses photography, film, and sculpture to investigate Los Angeles through the lens of geological time, urging viewers to reevaluate how our reliance on fossil fuels shapes our perception of the world.
Julian Charrière’s remarkable body of work has been showcased at renowned international institutions and biennales, solidifying his status as a thought-provoking contemporary artist. His deep exploration of humanity’s interaction with the environment continues to captivate and challenge audiences.
Sean Kelly, Los Angeles
1357 N Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90028