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2008 Core A.I.R. Exhibition.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston TX March 7 * April 18, 2008

The 2008 CORE Artists in Residence Exhibition, in conjunction with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Glassell School of Art, featured Mequitta Ahuja, William Cordova, Kara Hearn, Andres Janacua, Lauren Kelley, Nicholas Kersulis, Sergio Torres-Torres, and Jeff Williams. An exuberant heterogeneity of practices, the show comprises three videos, one video projection, paintings, photography, a preponderance of text (used both in conjunction with photography and painting or by itself) and, unforgettably, one capsized fifteen-foot wooden boat by Andres Janacua moored in the school parking lot.

Known for her reenactments of scenes from Star Wars, Fight Club, E.T. and Sophie's Choice, Kara Hearn's 33-minute video Things that are sometimes accidentally true (2008) continues to wrestle with questions of spectatorship, viewer identification, and private memory versus public display. The volunteers, a dozen or so women and men of mixed ages, were asked to cry for the camera. Shot from the shoulder up, they face the camera squarely. Some look up at the sky, as if summoning up some previously unbidden thought. But many initially look down, as if knowingly submitting to some force greater than themselves. Barely managing a tear, there's a lot of gesturing toward crying to little effect. Instead, what washes over their faces is a look of solemn contemplation, a bleached-out weariness without the stock cathartic release. But as for the two women who do cry profusely, somehow their catharsis empties into an uncomfortable void. Hearn is not behind the video camera nor even in the room during the filming, thereby situating the viewer at the cusp of competing tendencies: we want to see them cry, but worry we haven't earned the right. We're frustrated when they don't cry, but when they do it's embarrassing.

Jeff Williams, who has previously worked with a synthetic form of dust and notions of accumulation, circulation, and absence, has also encased Victorian-era area rugs in wooden cases with the top removed to reveal their contents. His CORE installation, floor (2008), continues to explore the separation between exterior and interior processes: a roughly 6-by-10-foot wooden framework is tilted at a low angle over a similarly sized Persian carpet. The way these materials are aligned, the highly crafted with the old and tattered, brings them into dramatic collusion with one another. Their combined inscription--indoor/outdoor, floor/frame, domestic/architectural--creates some kind of midway between raw construction and pure display. The fact that the color scheme of Williams's carpets--ranging from faded periwinkle to burnt sienna, peach, tan, goldenrod, auburn, sand, and aquamarine--seems viscerally satisfying, turns up the volume on many of the unstated implications of the built environment.


Perhaps the most challenging work in the show is that of Sergio Torres-Torres, which continues his preoccupation with the iconography and language of social protest. This time, however, Torres-Torres exhibits a more explicit angst over the ineffectiveness of resistance in a regime of absolute transparency. His four large purple-gray paintings of poodle heads are superimposed with block lettering stating things like, "These characters will not perform an act of revolt and you, dear reader, may be left wishing to see revolution represented here"; "Dear Viewer, you will not see images of historic revolution represented here"; or "Note to self: stop imposing old conditions on new situations." Then in cartoon bubbles, the adorable poodles say, "I look at history and all I see is continuous struggle"; "At times some of us take up arms and some hope for the best"; "A lot of people think that it looks like the 60s"; or "How does a revolutionary moment look?" Not outlandish enough to be kitsch, these ambivalent musings about the viability of political resistance are eerily disturbing, like so many futile exercises in Brechtian distanciation. Bringing to mind those animal fables of old, right through Tolstoy's "Kholstomer: The Story of a Horse," Kafka's "Metamorphosis," to Ionesco's Rhinoceros, Torres-Torres seems to hedge between seeing his poodles as obvious stand-ins for mass stupidity, as willing dupes of spectacle and consumerism, or as giving birth to self-renewing pearls before swine.
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Author:Liu, Andrea
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2008
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