In 3 hours spent last Saturday afternoon at Chelsea galleries I found a lot of time being consumed with video watching. With some art videos requiring 20 or more minutes of viewing, sometimes I find that as intriguing as things are, I might not want to sit still for that duration.
I will recommend visiting Taxter and Spengemann (504 W. 22nd St, Through Feb 10) for the 4 videos which are short enough to watch from start to completion and then again.
Matt Calderwood, by observing common objects from a fixed point of view makes engaging and meditative videos.
Upon entering the gallery, the most striking video shows a floating light bulb bobbing and spinning in the black space of a large high definition video monitor. Calling to mind a classroom science demonstration of how a ball can be made to float, we are immediately made aware that the bulb is kept aloft by a stream of compressed air, which can be heard hissing on the video sound track. Because of the bulb’s shape, it does not float with the consistency of a sphere. The video image records the bulb, threaded base up, spinning eccentrically, becoming more and more unstable in flight. The air pressure seems to increase, because the bulbs oscillations increase in height and speed appearing ever more dizzying and absurd. In a few moments, the bulb begins to move in and out of the top of the camera frame, until it is blown completely off camera, followed by a loud popping sound, which would be the bulb breaking after being blown off of the air jet. The short film has humor and magic.
On the gallery’s second floor is a video that begins with the camera frame completely filled with hundreds of wooden match sticks bunched together. The red match heads are filmed directly above so the effect is more of texture than description. For what seems like a surprisingly long time, we sense that the image on the screen is flickering, provoking the thought that there are many matches out of frame that are burning and illuminating the matches. The light becomes brighter and flickers strongly, the intense red of the match heads seen in the video image starts to degrade, becoming lighter and more yellow, then whiter. Finallly the flames appear at the bottom of the camera frame, igniting the match heads consecutively across the entire image. The flames reach the greatest intensity, diminish, the wood of the match heads burns for a fitful moment, flames out, smolders, and extinguishes. It all seems to take longer than I would have imagined, but the whole process fascinates in the same way that playing with matches would captivate a child. Calderwood asks us to take the time and look at the seemingly trivial, and what he shows us is surprisingly rich.
Reading the Bellwether web site today about the Brent Green exhibit clears me of my guilty feelings that I should of stayed to see all of the videos showing there. Turns out there that there are (according to the press release) 11 20 minute videos. The brief look that I did take at the videos being screened at the gallery was fascinating. Using stop animation and handmade film cells, the world in these videos is somewhat nightmarish, resembling the films of the Brothers Quay and Tim Burton with a little William Kentridge thrown in. The animation had a somewhat staccato quality. The artist used acetate animation cells, and these were very much in evidence, because the camera lighting was reflected in the material. Ordinarily, animators would eliminate these reflections. The artist also used tape to hold the cell in position, and the resulting effect shows not only the animation of the action, but also the movement of the acetate cell across the image area, as well as the pieces of tape moving about the cell. This work is both crude and sophisticated; Brent Green is a strong artist. (134 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY 10011, between 18th and 19th Streets Closes on Saturday)
Amy Yoes at Michael Steinberg Fine Art.526 West 26th St. Suite 215 Painting and sculpture with video, Video with painting and sculpture, and small photographs of painted sculpture. Yoes uses these media in varying proportions but to good effect. The main room at the gallery has a large painted sculptural relief jutting out from wall, suggesting “built in” shelving or furniture. Two videos are projected within the space on the wall occupied by the relief. One animation depicts a ball of clay changing shape and rotating, and the other image shows an animated thick black line that incrementally appears and disappears.
A single channel video employs a stationary camera to make a stop animation of a sculptural set with shapes reminiscent of the room installation. In this engaging film loop, objects mechanically move about the set, and various white panels appear to be covered in black paint, only to have the black disappear as soon as it appears. It is is short film loop, but one could watch it over multiple cycles to see the transformations taking place in the sculpture.
In the back gallery are black and white photographs of small painted constructions, similar to that of the video. In these images, the ambiguities of space that can be created in painting by the use of shading, volume and line are captured. When looking at these photographs, it is difficult to differentiate the actual space and volume from that which is merely painted.
The investigation of painted spatial illusion through photography seems to be the concern of many artists these day, and Amy Yoes has added her fresh insights.
At Max Protetch ( 511 West 22nd Street, New York, New York 10011, through Feb 17th) Tim Hyde, comes late to the world of Night, Urban and industrial landscape photography. Previously working in the commercial film industry, Hyde’s images, while at first atmospheric, quickly remind the viewer of ot other artists’ work done earlier.
There is a short video which combines Hyde’s knowing eye and flair for dramatic composition along with the mood of film noir. His most elaborate work, the scene is of a russian high-rise apartment complex. Filmed at night with a soundtrack of muffled shouts, the barks of dogs and snippets of incomprehensible russian , the mood is desolate. The scenes are tightly framed with a stationary camera and the lens is zoomed in and out to draw the viewers’ eyes. Humans hastily walk across darkened courtyards and wild dogs scamper about. A young woman on her haunches laughs and talks at the camera while smoking a cigarette. In a different scene a frog hops into the frame. It’s all put together very well and is fairly evocative, but it all seems to be a drama waiting for a narrative. Hyde appears to have in his mind a compendium of strong images remembered from photographs and films he has seen before. He is able to make images that are evocative, but these works are mainly evocative of the work of others.
Hyde’s most distinctive work is the seven channel video made over several hours during a snowstorm at night. Here the video camera’s auto focus mechanism is unable to find a point of focus, and so the horizontal bank of images rack in an out of focus and definition while the tape runs on. Each video screen shows diffuse, ghostly white images of a New York City panorama. With this work, the artist has discovered a phenomena of camera technology which he has employed to individual effect.
See you at the galleries!