Surface/Ground

 

Exploring the Planar in Video

 

and Film

 


July 22, 2010 – Sept 15, 2010

  

Works by Gary Hill, Harun Farocki, Michael Snow, Ori Gersht, Andy Warhol, Marilyn Minter, Burt Barr, William Lamson, Clemens Krauss, Juan Bulfill, Jeffers Egan and Krisdy Shindler

 

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Fine art photographers have long explored the tension between depth-of-field and flatness; between the suggestion of real space and the graphic quality of the surface. That became all the more relevant in the 1970s as an increasing number of artists began to introduce the notion of scale into their works. For critic Michael Fried, who discusses the topic in “Why Photography Matters as Never Before” (2009), that encouraged the same kind of relationship between the viewer, the work and the space itself that had previously been the province of painting and sculpture. Fried also suggests that with the latest generation of fine art photographers, such as Jeff Wall, Andreas Gursky and Gregory Crewdson, many of whom work with large scale and highly-mediated, tableau forms, are now introducing some of the same controversies he outlined in “Art and Objecthood” (1967), namely theatricality, literalness and objecthood.

Film and video works, by contrast, have rarely been judged by the same criteria. But today, with the ubiquity of digital hardware, an increasing number of film and video artists are now approaching their medium in very much the same way, where a single subject is expressed all at once, much like a painting, yet with the same scale, presence and philosophical weight that Fried describes in “Why Photography Matters.”

Cinema by contrast has been divided between preferences of the long shot versus montage, an argument that was discussed at great length in the 1950s by critics such as Andre Bazin, who believed that the single, sustained shot, was more realistic than montage, and filmmaker and poets, such Pier Paolo Pasolini, who wrote: “Reality seen and heard as it happens is always in the present tense. The long take, the schematic and primordial element of cinema, is thus in the present tense. Cinema therefore ‘reproduces the present’.”

“Surface/Ground” looks at a handful of contemporary artworks that explore the same notion and demonstrates how the moving image is now dovetailing with fine art photography in a way that it hasn’t in the past. Each work included explores a different art historical reference (Renaissance painting, abstract expressionism, automatism, language mediation, etc), yet each remains devoted to the most minimal presentation possible. The effect is highly evocative and architectural, but wholly atmospheric and sensuous.

Works included:

 

(2 LCDs)

Ejecting 2008 Carlos Llavata (2:30 min loop) Lisboa

One of Portugal’s most prominent performance artists updates on Richard Serra’s Hand Catching Lead (1968) by reaching for skyrockets

 

Parental Home, 2009, Clemens Krauss (3 min loop) Berlin

Touching on Gordon Matta-Clark’s architectural interventions, Krauss uses a camera to literally penetrate through his parent’s home

 

(Wall Work 16:9)

Emerge, 2007, William Lamson (2 min loop) Brooklyn

Colored balloons defy their watery confinement and take flight

 

(Wall Work 16:9)

Disappear, 2010, Jeffers Egan (algorithmic software, endless loop) Berlin

As part of Egan’s Motion Painting series, Egan uses an algorithmic process to create a kind of living organism, always changing, always adapting, or as Egan says, it’s “a software ecosystem.”

 

(4:3 Screen)

Screen Tests, 1964-1966, Andy Warhol (23 min loop) NYC

Warhol understood before many how a moving image can exist as a painting or photograph. His screen tests, featured here, are crucial for the way they reduce figures to the iconic

 

(LCD Monitor)

Signiaturas 2002-2008 Juan Bulfill (6 min loop) Barcelona

Using a long exposure and 16mm camera, Bulfill allows light to “draw” on the surface of celluloid

 

(16:9 Screen)

Tundra, 2008, William Lamson (3 min loop) Brooklyn

With the smallest of means, Lamson transforms a snowy scene into a graphic, gestural image that recalls notes on a scale or a grestural, Twombly-esque drawing.

 

(4:3 Screen)

Language Willing, 2002, Gary Hill (20 min loop) Seattle

Language has always been exceptionally important to Hill’s artistic investigation. Here he uses the unaltered voice of poet Chris Mann, who improvises on theories of representation, while depicting two hands as they keep time by touching only the buds of flowers.

 

(Free standing screen)

Gun, 2007, Burt Barr (2 min loop) NYC

Taking the iconic image of Hollywood’s most androcentric genres, film noir and the western, Burr offers a never-ending macho icon, which plays in concert with Warhol

 

(16:9 Screen)

Ein Bild (The Image) 1983, Harun Farocki (25 mins loop) Vienna

The camera within Farocki’s piece forever graces the surface of a model as she poses for a Playboy shoot. Meanwhile, Farocki’s camera offers yet another level of distance, such that all is rendered impenetrable and artificial.

 

(Wall monitor in frame)

Falling Bird, 2008, Ori Gersht (9 min loop) Tel Aviv

By recreating one of Chardin’s better known still lifes and placing it within a frame, Gersht emphasizes the painterly. But as the fowl falls into an oily pool the work begins to reference much more, including environmental disasters. 

 

(Large 16:9 projection back gallery)

Green Pink Caviar, 2009, Marilyn Minter (3 segments, 2 mins each, looped) NYC

Lush consumption of the most sensuous kind is the subject of Minter’s work, but here the surface of the screen becomes a self-reflexive mirror of desire.

 

(2 Monitors)

The Mountain and the Abyss 2005-2006, (5:10 loop) Krisdy Shindler, Vancouver

Using time-lapse animation, Shindler documents the evolution of a painterly surface.

 

(Back Projection Room)

Solar Breath (Northern Caryatids), 2003, Michael Snow (62’ min loop)

In this single, sustained shot Snow shows little more than a domestic window overlooking a rural scene in Newfoundland. This work, according to the artist, belongs to a group of film and photographic works that take subjects that were not formed by the artist as “art”, but rather were “taken-by-surprise.”  “For me,” sais Snow, “this real, un-staged event contains the elements which are essential for a contemplative time-light-motion work of art, a "motion picture" with "plastic" values and reverberant associations which will reward many viewings.”