Los Angeles Times. 27 April 2007.

Los Angeles Times

Around the galleries

From mailbox to the art gallery
By Holly Myers, Special to The Times

27 April 2007

The photographs in "Postscript," London-based artist Veronica Bailey's L.A. debut at Bank, explore one of life's vanishing pleasures: the experience of a personal letter.

Most of the mid-size images in the show depict a single envelope against a flat, slate gray ground, photographed from above the opening looking in. (Some depict a single folded sheet.) At a glance, you might mistake them for elliptical Brancusi- or O'Keeffe-like abstractions, complete with the faint suggestion of female genitalia.

Their magic, however, lies in their material specificity. Shot at close range with an extremely shallow depth of field, the envelopes' fuzzy, torn edges are crystal clear, while their planes descend evocatively into shadow. Glimpses of script trailing illegibly into the folds suggest whispered conversations just out of earshot.

The formal elegance of the work is enriched by the fact that all of the letters belonged to one of 20th century art's most fascinating women, Lee Miller. The stunningly beautiful American fashion model went on to become Man Ray's lover, muse and collaborator; the wife, for a time, of a wealthy Egyptian businessman in Cairo; and one of the first Americans to photograph the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.

These letters date to her years as a war correspondent, and most involve her soon-to-be second husband, the Surrealist painter Roland Penrose. Their titles — "Mad With Envy," "I Love You," "Missing You" — intimate the contents. Bailey, who has photographed the pages of books and newspapers for other series, has a wonderfully sensual way with paper that's enough to make one grieve the onset of the Digital Age.

All artwork and images © Veronica Bailey 2024.