Conner's photos have the most basic generic titles indicating where they were taken, and to judge from their abundance, Chinese locations are her favorite. But at its best, her work is hardly generic travelogue photography. She's drawn to images that typical tourists probably wouldn't pick up on, such as the countless tiers of terraced gardens that cascade down the hillsides in Longshan, Guangxi, China (1991), punctuated by a tiny solitary figure in the distance.
She also creates a sense of flow in Nielsen Park, Vancluse (2000), a close-up of gnarled tree trunks and intertwined branches that look as if they're melting down a rocky hillside in the Sydney, Australia, park. For other pieces, Conner generates fullness of space by piecing together multiple shots, as in the seven vertical panels of Ngo Gach Street (1994), which seem to wrap around a corner and down the street in both directions.
He's crafty: Martin E. Casuso's Lamp (2002)
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Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood
Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat (1993) similarly uses four vertical panels to give a seemingly multidimensional view of the famous Cambodian ruins. And in the spectacular vertical shot Le Shan, Sichuan (1986), Conner captures steep, narrow steps that snake down a lush hillside to the edge of a lake or river, with city buildings ever so faintly visible in the background.
After Conner's photographs, "Modus Operandi" changes course abruptly with Miami-based Bill Burke's installation Thin Spaces, which takes up an entire gallery. You enter the dimly illuminated space through a bamboo curtain only to find yourself walking on a layer of sand covering the floor. Sounds of gurgling water come from inside two white pedestals, upon which sit miniature buildings resembling churches.
Along the walls are displays of what look like fossils embedded in slabs of some sort of translucent material. According to the brochure, these are actual plant and animal carcasses that Burke has preserved in fired glass. Some are so badly decomposed that they're unidentifiable.
Elsewhere in the gallery are wooden boxes containing similar specimens, some so faint they become abstract studies in texture. Other boxes extending from the wall offer small windows to such contents as dried leaves, twigs, and even a tiny bird's nest. And along one wall are two "clotheslines" with nearly three dozen pieces of paper clipped to them, each with a fossil-like imprint.
Paradoxically, this room filled with reminders of death and deterioration is a strangely soothing space. Maybe that's because it presents life and death as a continuum, with even the footprints of previous visitors as traces of people who have come and gone, who have left their marks, however impermanent, on this eerie environment. All by itself, Thin Spaces makes "Modus Operandi" worth experiencing.