On a night when nearly every Dallas gallery opened their doors and cheap wine for a reception or event, one show in particular stood out from the crowd. Conduit Gallery’s bright main room was darkened to feature a group of video works for The Second Program, an exhibition curated by Charles Dee Mitchell.
Typically when we are given an opportunity to view video works they will be the odd pieces out within a gallery of more traditional or at least more static pieces. Thankfully this is not the case at Conduit’s show. Instead of ducking into a separate room to view “that video piece,” we are able to view multiple video works at one time – a welcome experience in a community where video or time-based art seems to remain a novelty or sideshow.
Though there was no theme for the show, there was clearly an effort to include a broad range of time based pieces. The perpetually falling bombs in Mathew Day Jackson’s Little Boy and Fat Man had an illustrative quality, while on the opposite wall David Askevold’s Sixteen Candles had the gritty feel of a vintage film. Luke Murphy’s The Longest Painting of Death appeared to be a video incarnation of a color field painting, but took on new dimension when it was revealed to be a conceptual work involving Secretariat and an Albert Pinkham Ryder painting.
Conversely, Jason Rhoades’s Untitled work drew me in only to reveal 8,000 un-fascinating and often blurry snapshots in a loop. (Though I have to admit I didn’t stick around for the full 8 hour length of the piece.) All of the works demand longer viewing than you might give a non-video piece, but I spent the most time in front of Bill Viola’s Six Heads. The eerie work is a study of the changing expressions of one man shown at such a slow speed that it initially appears to be a still image.
In a back of the gallery stood John Gitleson’s Staring Contest. Two men on separate screens stare straight ahead into each other’s eyes. To determine if the men in the video ever blink, the viewer must engage in an actual staring contest of their own with the art (a contest that I lost). The work was reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, but unlike Warhol’s subjects, these men seem less human due to their lack of emotion, personality or discomfort.
The stand-out work of the show was VHS by Kristin Lucas, a VHS tape made of black paraffin. The small work appeared to be alone in its sculptural nature, but when lit it slowly dripped and melted, becoming a time based work that was at home with the other pieces. The VHS candle burned like a little effigy of our media past.
The Second Program video art exhibition demands a little time, but with that time can change expectations of the moving image. The works will remain on view at Conduit Gallery until August 28, 2010.
This exhibition is just one part of The Second Program’s free events in Dallas. Be sure to attend the short art film screenings at Conduit Gallery on Saturday August 7th at 7pm, as well as Double Take by Johan Grimonprez at Angelika Mockingbird Station on August 18th at 7:30.
More information at www.videofest.org/the2ndprogram