In genetics, a recombinant organism is one created out of DNA from multiple sources, creating a new, mutated form of being. In Derek Sola’s recombinant photography, the overlapping of individual city scenes – what Sola calls “seriality compressed” – creates novel urbanscapes that purposefully overwhelm the senses and challenge our conception of what a city means.
Sola is an architect who studied in Milan, but his sensibility is deeply rooted in the American West, with its echoes of both possibility and menace. His central characters are the neon lights and the night sky of Las Vegas and Los Angeles, which he stacks claustrophobically across his black and white prints: the city as a kaleidoscopic late-night carnival. Like the swathes of light that linger behind your closed eyelids, the jumbled, smeared images give the disorienting impression of drunkenness.
Its the city defined by night, by technology, by commercialism. We don’t see the inhabitants – only their idols and signposts. The garish, glowing vocabulary of the city – Casino, Liquor, Free Parking – weaves between the superstructures of office buildings and the glare of endless freeways. In this, Sola’s work contains both a critique and a celebration of our urbanism. On the one hand, it presents a frenetic busy-ness that only seems to mask a deeper emptiness. But on the other, his recombinations capture the heart of what makes a city vital: multiplicity, randomness, and serendipity. The result is as always, colored by our own eyes; and whether it makes you feel anxious or alive, it all hinges on sensation.