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Tension and loss: on the eve of two New York openings, artist Shimon Attie talks about the gay content in his work - or the lack thereof.

Shimon Attie's photographs and public installations engage a surprisingly poignant form of neighborhood watch. In the early 1990s he mounted several major European-based multimedia pieces. In those pieces he projected pre-World War II images of Jewish life onto buildings in Berlin to tease out the complex histories inhabiting the aging edifices, and he pointed out similarly discomfiting pasts in the canals of Copenhagen and on the cobblestone paths of Krakow, Poland. "When you go into neighborhoods," says the 41-year-old artist, "you encounter houses and buildings that have the potential to serve as witnesses to personal and collective histories."

This month the artist unveils two separate projects in New York that reveal histories as powerful as those he brought to Europe. The first project, "Between Dreams and History," examines contemporary notions of community by projecting high-tech laser images on the streets and building facades at the intersection of Ludlow and Rivington streets on Manhattan's Lower East Side. (The piece, presented by Creative Time, runs for four weeks starting October 22.)

Although the artist doesn't specifically address his roots in this public work -- he grew up in Los Angeles -- he does note that the Lower East Side happens to be where his Syrian Jewish grandparents began their immigrant life in America. "Part of the project," he says, "is telling a personal story and a larger story at the same time."

The second show, "Photographs and Public Projects," includes a series of color photographs called "Untitled Memory (Projection of...)," on view at New York's Jack Shainman Gallery from October 17 to November 14. In this project Attie probes even more personal terrain. Although the artist has lived in Europe and resides in New York, he maintained a San Francisco apartment for nearly 20 years. By projecting snapshots of friends, male lovers, and his family in the exact spots where those pictures were originally taken in the apartment, Attie seems to give life to the saying "If these walls could talk." Adding atmospheric colored lighting and then photographing the setup, he has created images that are equally poignant and eerie. "I try to balance a tension between ghostliness and dreamy beauty," he says.

With San Francisco as their setting, it may be tempting to view these images with AIDS as a subtext, but Attie steers clear of that theory. "Memory is about loss -- period," he says. "Within that there are many individual stories. I want to leave room for people to imagine them."

Although Attie says he is comfortably out to all who know him -- and has been involved with several Jewish gay and lesbian activist organizations -- he views the San Francisco project as being the closest he's come to specifically dealing with gay content in his artwork. "It's never been foregrounded as an issue," he admits. "It's not an ideological decision; it's more in terms of what moves me as an artist. It's just never been something I've been moved to make art about. That's my love life, not my art life."
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Title Annotation:public laser display 'Between Dreams and History,'for four weeks beginning Oct 22 and 'Photographs and Public Projects,' Jack Shainman Gallery, Oct 17-Nov 14
Author:Helfand, Glen
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Oct 27, 1998
Words:499
Previous Article:Liberace.
Next Article:My youthful indiscretions.
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