Charles LaBelle’s “compound photographs” reduce thousands of one-inch-square images of architectural details, street signs, and flip-flops to color, tone and texture. His carefully organized grids call to mind crazy quilt patterns, Jasper Johns’s primary color paintings, and Jugendstil visual vocabulary prior to conceptual photographic practices like Sol LeWitt’s photogrids or the serialized images of Bernd and Hilla Becher.
The titles of LaBelle’s photo composites refer to familiar sites such as L.A.’s Silverlake or New York’s Lower East Side. Remarkably, the specificity of each image does not contribute to an understanding of place or an intricate narrative. In the diptych Driftworks-Chicago (2006), the landscape reference, light quality and atmospheric haze are more quintessentially Chicago than the endless stream of unique “city pictures” that constitute its field. Each image succumbs to the whole arrangement.
Cutting up proof sheets, LaBelle obsessively reclaims the endless and overlooked archive accumulated by photographers. In the era of digital imaging, he presents a nonconformist relationship to the photographic print.