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Bergamot exhibit blurs culture and identity

A burst of light obscures a face. The angles of a boy’s image melt into a shadow. A girl radiates from within. In an increasingly photoshopped, filtered and Instagramed world, German artist Semra Sevin is finding new ways to manipulate the fabricated reality of a portrait. Her photographs look like abstract paintings, forcing the viewer to question themselves as they dissect the image.

“Often we just walk by images because we know exactly what’s going to happen because it’s so similar to reality,” Sevin said looking at one of her photos on display at the Bergamot Arts Center. In the photo, a daughter of Mexican immigrants rests peacefully on a rug. A transparent film separates the photographer from the subject and bends the light. A pair of pink Converse shoes penetrate the frame. The young woman appears to be glowing. “This makes people stop and ask themselves questions.”

Sevin is one of five artists featured in a free exhibit at the Building Bridges Art Exchange, a non-profit contemporary art organization established in 2005 by Argentinian artist and curator Marisa Caichiolo. The space holds rotating exhibitions from around the world, artist residencies, educational workshops and lectures. The current exhibit, The Relative Sharpness of Boundaries, is part of the Month of Photography in Los Angeles and will run through May 18.

“LA is going through a huge transformation of the arts scene in the last four or five years and everyone is trying to reshape their narratives within the city,” Ciachiolo said. The world-renowned curator said local galleries are focusing on the untold stories of Los Angeles, with a renewed focus on women and immigrants. For the current exhibit, Caichiolo selected key portraits from five international artists to create a dialogue on identity, self expression and culture. “It’s how they see society and how they see themselves.”

To Ciachiolo, including Sevin in the gallery was an obvious choice. Since moving to Berlin in 2011, the German artist has become more conceptual. Sevin uses reflective surfaces, films, foils, and projections to create multi-level images. Another portrait called “Crossing Identities” is segmented in the exhibition to allow the viewer to see new perspectives by standing at different angles, including from behind the work. The photograph was taken while Sevin interviewed 24 immigrant children in Los Angeles and Berlin for a project funded by the Berlin Senate. Overall, the exhibit showcases five pieces from Sevin and juxtaposes them with other artists’ photography.

“We’re so happy about this space and how it all plays together,” Sevin said. The other artists include Alessandro Cardinale, Cristina Gori, Hertha Miessner, and Nuna Mangiante.

The Gallery is open Tuesday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. Building Bridges Art Exchange is located at 2525 Michigan Avenue, Unit F2 and can be contacted by calling 310-770-1961 or emailing

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