For her first solo exhibition at Sloan Projects, artist Alia Malley will debut Captains of The Dead Sea, a series of unique, photo-based images that explore the continuity between fact and fiction, history and hoax. A convincing journey through deep space and across the stark terrain of distant planets, the images that comprise Captains read like media artifacts from an authentic space chronicle yet were primarily shot on location in desert settings of California and the Southwestern United States.
By training her lens on topographical features in the landscape such as rock and crater formations that recall media images of the pockmarked surface of the moon or the rust colored valleys of Mars, Malley demonstrates how photographic images have been imprinted in our consciousness and have comprehensively altered the way we perceive and interpret the landscape around us. As the artist writes: At this point in history, our common experience is mediated by the way in which the material world has been previously filmed or photographed. I go to Death Valley and realize that it "looks like” Mars... or the Moon...or a scene from Star Wars.”
Malley makes use of this inescapable paradigm, drawing on visual references as disparate as black and white stills from the golden era of NASA’s Apollo program, 19th century survey photography of the American West, and films like John Ford’s The Searchers, and the 1977 Mars landing hoax conspiracy flick, Capricorn One. In this way, she deftly weaves together the bonafide, awe-inspiring thrill of space exploration, the grandiose views of early landscape photography and the pop sensibility of contemporary sci-fi culture.
Shot on various formats, Malley prints her work predominantly onto newsprint, paying homage to the newspapers through which we first experienced images from space and reminding us of those front pages, routinely and nostalgically saved not only as souvenirs, but as the very “proof” of our collective history. At times, her prints are presented as two halves of a newspaper spread, unfolded and ceremoniously displayed as one image, as if some unknown reader was inclined to preserve what might otherwise get replaced by the next day’s offerings.
Alia Malley (b.1973, California) received her BA in Critical Studies from USC School of Cinematic Arts in 1994, and her MFA in Visual Arts from University of California Riverside in 2010. She was the recipient of the 2011 CENTER Dealer’s Choice Award, and the 2010 Merck Award at Darmstädter Tage Der Fotografie, Germany. In 2011, she was selected for the Fundación Botín - Taller de Paul Graham in Santander, Spain, and in 2013 participated in the Farm Foundation’s Arctic Circle residency in Spitsbergen, Svalbard. She was selected for the 2015 Field-Notes Hybrid_Matters residency at the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station in Lapland, Finland.
Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions throughout the US, including the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Riverside Art Museum, California. Malley’s work is included in the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the UCLA Library Special Collections.