"The greatest mystery is not that we have been flung at random between the profusion of matter and of the stars, but that within that prison we can draw from ourselves images powerful enough to deny our nothingness." Andre Malraux

07 November, 2010

Peter Campus & Ana Mendieta

My Saturday travels in Chelsea brought a couple video/performance artists to my attention. One has been working for decades, the other dead for a quarter of a century, but I was unfamiliar with both.

Peter Campus' exhibition of new work at Cristin Tierney (also here) held me rapt for quite a while. The gallery is full of large digital screens, each showing what are at first glance subtly impressionist landscapes. And so they are, but closer inspection reveals that they are moving. My first thought was, "This must be what Impressionism looks like at Hogwarts." Almost all are the sort of seascapes familiar to anyone who's visited Cape Cod, but with movement and sound, they are given new life. Not surprisingly, I can't find these images online, but here is some work by Campus in a very similar vein.

Also, here are 3 much earlier video performances of his that are pretty darned cool:

Ana Mendieta has a fascinating retrospective at Galerie Lelong. It's not easy to present the work of someone whose oeuvre contained so many live performances, but perhaps they took some cues from MoMA's recent Marina Abramovic exhibit, because this one works amazingly well. Her sudden and mysterious death 25 years ago at age 36 seems to have overshadowed her legacy, which is quite unfortunate; the work itself made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, which is a rare gift in art.

I couldn't tear myself away from one of her early projects: hidden camera footage of passersby in 1960s Iowa as they walked past a bloody mess on a public sidewalk. Reactions ranged from aghast to oblivious, with most barely glancing at it & maybe raising an eyebrow as they stepped out of the way. If you showed that footage of today's New Yorkers doing the same, they'd all be decried as soulless automatons, but human nature is human nature, even in The Heartland decades past.

I adore this quote, which expresses something I've been thinking a lot about lately: "The turning point in my art was in 1972 when I realized my paintings were not real enough for what I wanted the image to convey — and by real I mean I wanted my images to have power, to be magic. I decided that for the images to have magic qualities, I had to work directly with nature. I had to go to the source of life, to mother earth."

Here's some of her work, starting with the exquisitely named "Soul Silhouette on Fire (Alma Silueta en Fuego)":

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