By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
The exhibition of An-My Lê's photography, 29 Palms, showing at Murray Guy, offers a strange and amazing display of the already-perverse at work in the machinations of war. Lê has photographed the U.S. military's war games in the deserts of California. In ongoing preparation for the war in Iraq, Marines regularly stage a "virtual Iraq and Afghanistan," assigning Americans roles as both American fighters and would-be native insurgents in order to play out the various and sundry what-ifs of combat. The military's verisimilitude is so precise that they have spray-painted anti-American graffiti on the walls of the mock set in pidgin English. The choice of subject matter is what emboldens these images, as they are straight-shot simple photographs. Bringing to mind the photographer Nan Goldin, it is Lê's presence that becomes so important here, her ability to negotiate picture-taking under what might be otherwise difficult circumstances. Lê's success is the result of a sleight of hands, her own and the American military's.
While showing in two separate galleries, Kirsten Hassenfeld (at Bellwether) and Sofi Zezmer (at Mike Weiss Gallery) seem the least disparate of all. The American artist Hassenfeld and German Zezmer fashion pretty sculptural objects from fragmented form. In her Objects of Virtue, Hassenfeld has made white, Rococo-esque and chandelier-like sculpture that comes across as pretty and precious as well as crystalline and raw. In "Re-Source," Zezmer has sutured together once-useful objects, everything from salt and pepper shakers to plastic threading, in order to make free-standing sculpture and wall-bound installations. They are colorful paeans to form without use.
Jane and Louise Wilson are up to their madcap high jinks once again, playing on what they know best, that they are twin sisters. Their new show Erewhon, now at 303 Gallery, consists of a five-screen video installation and exposé of new photographic works. The title of the show, "nowhere" spelled backward, comes from a Victorian-era novel written by Samuel Butler. In keeping with the dual theme of Victorian-era morality and topsy-turvy-ness, the Wilson twins have staged battling video projections of girls in an old gymnasium moving about slowly in period exercise dress. The rhythm of the facing projections is out of sync, and the two sets of screens are at odds with one another, further riffing on the artists' activities as both individuals and twins.
The video installations of the Swiss-German artist Pipilotti Rist are endlessly mind-probing yet suggestively playful. Showing at Luhring Augustine, Herbstzeitlose (Saffron Flower or Fall Time Less) brings together four of Rist's video-cum-sculptural objects, the most piquing of which is the one showing in the main gallery. With the same title as the overall show, this work uses video as but one element in the creation of a total environment. Encompassed by video projection on three different walls, one gazes at the wall on the right where Rist herself appears in large and happy form, frolicking in the vibrantly green landscape of her native Switzerland. Images of landscape and homey neighborhood appear in the video projected in front, and the ebb and tide of a sea occurs in a video to the left. Also to the left, hanging overhead, are large wooden branches from which dangle Calder-like cast-off plastic containers. Behind where the viewers sit, Rist has installed the façade of a mock "local" house. Rist creates an ecology of the plastic and unreal that makes us question the validity of our sense of local in a globally interconnected world.
Who am I kidding? That Dallas is Dallas--exotically familiar and only on rare occasion New York-esque--is what ultimately makes it special. Let Dallas be Dallas and New York be New York.