Lila Subramanian
Nearby Nowhere
Corporate Midtown
Los Angeles

Lila Subramanian
Lives and works in New York City, NY


"...Lila Subramanian presents photographic installations that fluctuate in dimension from arrangements of only a few images to complex, large-scaled combinations. The individual pictures also vary in size, and a range of styles, genres and photographic mediums (C-prints, Iris prints, ink jets) are utilized to produce different emotional responses from image to image. There are psychologically charged color portraits or young women which have just enough added (an exaggerated hand gesture, intentional shadows, or a destabilized composition) to ensure that they won't be mistaken for sentimental portraiture. They also deny a narrative read, differing from the Yale brand of constructed female tableaus, for the pictures are too ordinary for that. These women are sitters, not actresses; they have real lives outside the photographic frame. Subramanian also presents large, exquisite landscapes in which she retains (or perhaps has rediscovered) a romantic posture towards the landscape. In spirit, the work aligns itself with the rich history of landscape painting. Like the painters of the past who used nature only as a starting point to gesture towards the sublime, Subramanian manages to do the same, in contemporary terms, by using a computer to enhance hues and textures or by removing elements oft he photographic original that upset the ideal composition. But the computer is only used some of the time, and as viewers we aren't privy to which images received treatment, because it doesn't matter. It's only the image that matters. Likewise, there are re-photographed landscapes from print media, which, for Subramanian, are beautiful in their own right. For her, it seems, images of the world are not mere representations, but objects in the world, equal to trees or Photoshop effects. Then there are these in-between pictures which isolate details of the urban and rural landscape and function as readymade still lives. Here Subramanian finds (but sometimes constructs) the special or beautiful from within the banal: a perfectly bent wire or a victimized watermelon. These are exercises in careful looking: patterns in industrial cranes, a dislocated patchwork mat, or a color-field of birds on a sidewalk. In this sense, perhaps the still lives more than any of the other works are about seeing the way Subramanian sees.

The history of photography (fine art, documentary, fashion, etc.) are Subramanian's tools and she uses different styles, genres and mediums to produce compelling pictures to which the viewer can attach meaning. In so doing, she also goes to the places where photographic styles and genres become blurred; she shows us one-hour photo sized prints that are not snapshots; she produces landscapes from a desktop printer. Leaving bare the material construction of her images, Subramanian makes the subject of the work photography itself, exploring the complex relationships between looking and recording, production and exhibition. She stands by Gursky, Wall, and Welling on that unstable frontier others have called the end of photography, but by leaving behind all that cleverness and irony, she also stands at the beginning of something else. The pictures raise the question of whether appropriation ceases to exist when it is practiced without critique or apology. Subramanian's photos are post-ironic. As in Kierkegaard's faithful leap which proved God's existence, she can jettison the critique because she has faith in the photographic image - that it can provide genuine emotional responses, that it can fulfill its promises..."

Beyond Relativism by Karl Haendel, UCLA Wight Biennial Catalogue, 2001


“...Nearby Nowhere by Lila Subramanian. A cross-pollination between 19th century landscape painting and contemporary advertising, these iris prints are created by manipulating the artist’s photographic negatives of landscapes and seascapes. By removing manmade elements and performing other alterations, Subramanian discovers a prehistoric, untouched place. Inserted into these familiar, yet seemingly exotic settings, are people posed as if to sell you a vacation, a novel or participation in the latest chapter of the self-help movement. While her figures seem completely contemporary, their relationship to the landscape recalls historical paintings by such artists as Jean-Francois Millet. Subramanian’s spinning of visual metaphors creates exquisite locations for the viewer to project their own reality.”

Press Release, Jessica Murray Projects, February 2002


“...Photographer Lila Subramanian bases her series of six iris prints on the closing couplets in Milton's "Paradise Lost," which she describes as a series of oppositions and contradictions that creates a tone of ambivalence and uncertainty rather than an image of finality and closure. ‘My prints hover between the familiar and the unfamiliar, the near and the far, here and there, posing the question where do we find our frontiers in the vastly urbanized contemporary landscape,’ explains Subramanian. ‘The work seeks an oasis, out-of-bounds, a kind of visual relief. Details from the landscape that are markers of time and place are digitally removed from the photographs in an attempt to de-contextualize the environment. These places of referential absence are also platforms upon which viewers can project their own narratives.’”

Columbia News, May 21, 2002


“...In a series of photographs, Lila Subramanian takes the viewer from a black hooded figure isolated in an area where a snow and ice encrusted arctic-resonant shore meets a cold ocean; to brightly colored sea shanties redolent of seaside vacations; to a red clothed figure walking on the snow in bare woods; to two women standing in the water gathering shells on a lonely expanse of beach; to a sign on a rocky cliff; (what it says is not readable) to the final frame of a solitary figure in the snow...”

Arts Wire Current, August 20, 2002


“Lila Subramanian’s recent work employs the savvy metaphor of elision of place to represent the displacement of ethnic diasporas in post-colonial Western society.  In her fictitious landscapes, selective deletion becomes a means of representing dislocation – the subtraction of contextual information reshapes the expected spaces of the landscape into something vertiginous and alien.  The result of this reductive process is a mediated landscape that refuses any definitive narrative, conjuring the unknown potentials of immigration and exploration.”

Sherman Magazine, Number 1, Winter 2002/2003


“...Lila Subramanian’s "Bollywood Cowboys" Series uses the film sub-genre called "curry western" as a point of departure to engage cultural imperialism and the collapsing of cultural boundaries...”

NY Arts Magazine, November 2005