Review: For Mexican artist Tania Franco Klein, self-portraits come with plenty of shadows

January 4, 2020

by Leah Ollman
The Los Angeles Times
24 DECEMBER 2019

Most of the photographs in Tania Franco Klein’s show at Rose Gallery are self-portraits. She appears unaccompanied, but in a certain sense, she is not entirely alone. Other artists feel present: Jo Ann Callis, Edward Hopper and Cindy Sherman, among them.

Klein has assimilated an assortment of familiar aesthetic stances — retro styling, cinematic staging, the still as narrative spur — as well as now-common tropes relating to female isolation, longing and the elusive definition of identity. She builds on these foundations and tweaks the recipes just enough to give her work its own piquant flavor.

Tania Franco Klein,  Toaster  (Self-portrait), from  Our Life in the Shadows , 2016

Tania Franco Klein, Toaster (Self-portrait), from Our Life in the Shadows, 2016

One of the most striking examples is a large black-and-white image of Klein seen from behind, in just pants and bra on a scrubby field, her body leaning forward toward a small plane in the near distance. It’s a scene of vague desperation and urgency.

The woman Klein plays is a changing character more than a stable self, and the frequent references to transit imply that she is moving or wanting to move toward something different, perhaps better. In domestic settings, she appears in a state of deep interiority, looking at a screen, out a window or at her own reflection, as if imagining herself elsewhere.

Tania Franco Klein,  Railway, TH 332 , From  Pest Control , 2016

Tania Franco Klein, Railway, TH 332, From Pest Control, 2016

Klein works mostly in color, extracting rich gem tones from the saturated hues of afternoon light on her settings or sets. In an impeccably composed picture from inside a train, emerald pleated curtains open to a dusty, ocher expanse. The upholstered seats, aglow, match the green of the curtains and are flecked with the same gold of the distant view.

“Dining Room (Self-portrait)” offers a beautiful, moody study in primaries. Klein, in pale yellow, curls up on the sea-green carpet between a chair with red cushion and the blue blankness of a TV screen. The nicked corner of the wooden chair leg reads like a bruised knee, a subtle detail further texturing the inferred story.

Klein, who lives in Mexico City and L.A., installs her pictures with an eye toward reinforcing the sense of destabilization within them. She prints in a variety of sizes, overlaps framed atop unframed photographs, hangs framed pieces in offset pairings and mounts pictures in a diverse range of heights on the wall. The strategy is something of an affectation, but it does put the body on notice when experiencing the show — the Mexican artist’s first in the U.S. — and makes it that much more involving.

Installation view of Tania Franco Klein: Proceed to the Route

Installation view of Tania Franco Klein: Proceed to the Route

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