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Mark Armijo McKnight at Park View / Paul Soto
At Paul Soto in West Adams, a suite of small grayscale prints by photographer Mark Armijo McKnight span the gallery. All are landscapes in the pastoral sense, although McKnight focuses on quiet hilltops flanked with lanky dead branches and spanning dunes that feel endless and apocalyptic. Dotted within these moody scenes is the occasional nude male figure, each sporting a skull mask. Same stand sultry and solitary while others lounge on the earth, eyes closed and arms akimbo. Their presence disrupts the landscape, but also feels deeply united with it—the shimmering photo quality of the silver gelatin prints add a ghostly touch.
In one untitled work, three men lay in a barren field, their bodies forming a loose circle, like a more morose version of Henri Matisse’s Dancers. Symbolism abounds in these works—sparse landscapes point to a changing environment, skulls to the art historical notion of memento mori, bodies in nature to our eventual mortality. Yet, another layer is added by the fact that McKnight, along with the models photographed, are queer. The show’s title, Posthume (French for posthumous), points to some kind of afterlife—to a kind of survival amidst a declining world.
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Photo: Mark Armijo McKnight, Posthume (installation view) (2023). Image courtesy of the artist and Paul Soto, Los Angeles. Photo: Marten Elder