Fresh Paint
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Politic of a Moment
From my snarky comment below you probably think I'm going to trash the coyness of some of the pieces in the show ("Politic of a Moment" at Evanston Art Center, up thru 2/13), or bemoan the idiocy of bunnies and puppies as subject matter for a grown woman to use in an installation, or talk about knitting and crochet, for that matter (one of Jeffrey Grauel's pieces is a pup tent crocheted from plastic bags called "Thank You," the piece I probably like best in the show).

Or you may think I'm going to wonder whatever happened to plain old painting or sculpture or whatever, but I'm not. The pieces in this show are just fine, as they stand. I like Lucy Mueller's photographs quite a lot. There is nothing to dislike about them. Larry Lee's "Manchurian Candidate" installation is a classic. He and the others are serious working artists.

What I loathe about this show is why all these pieces are supposedly here now and shown together, the pretension of the catalog essay, and how the boat is missed with nearly every phrase in it. You can read the essay yourself here. I won't waste bandwidth, though it's probably no worse than many of these things.

First, let me say that I just saw the show this past week, after it's been up since the first week in January, and it's looking very tired (as is the video installation about Cuba, "Mirage," not officially part of the show, but looking tired as well, with a dusty, unhealthy skim on the water surface where the images are projected).

Upstairs in Larry Lee's installation, they're no longer even turning on the DVD that is supposed to run in a 25 minute loop. Originally configured in 1997, Lee's installation, "Manchurian Candidate," involves water torture from a fish tank, with chairs set up facing (originally, stills) a TV with faucets directed over them.



I don't think it was intended to be, back then, but it's hard now to look at supposed torture from the balmy years of the Clinton administraton after Bush's Abu Ghraib -- and the remake of the "Manchurian Candidate," sitting through which is a torture of its own -- in the same way.

And since 1997, we've all seen so many video installations that just the threat of a 25 minute loop is enough for many of us to start confessing to any number of crimes, only please, please don't turn it on.

The other works also show a sweet oblivion. Sarah Wild's two pieces (a bunny on a shelf with a blob of styrofoam, and doggie and a chair and a big blob of styrofoam) are from 2000 and 2001, back when punk-kid installations were highly in vogue. Does anyone remember the year they first had installation spaces at the BFA show?

This is what I find most interesting about this show, its lack of newness and freshness, its sense of an historical moment now passed. Is this what its "politic" is really about? I don't think the show's curator (Marjorie Vecchio) really gets it.

And, please, the two goldfish swimming around in the filthy fish tank (scum and broken stalks of weed floating on top) in Lee's installation must be set free NOW!

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