Candice Breitz at Perry Rubenstein
Video as an art medium defies conventional expectations and desires. It is often for this reason alone that so much of “video art” falls so miserably flat.
It was with an arched eyebrow of mistrust and doubt that I entered the Perry Rubenstein Gallery about ten days ago to sample the art of Candice Breitz. Let me state on the record, it is a winning state of affairs for an artist to completely delight a viewer with such subterranean expectations. Ms. Breitz is not only a gifted artist but also an astute analyst of fame, desire and pop culture. Intellect and ambition are wedded to wit and a musical sense of rhythm and editing. The effect is hypnotic.
There are three installations on exhibit. Each has its own particular charm but the winner for me was The Rehearsal in the far west gallery of the Rubenstein complex. Six vertical video monitors deliver interviews with different characters. And this is as far as I’m willing to go on descriptive detail. Let me take a moment to explain.
Imagine for a second that before you sat down to see Citizen Kane for the first time, you were handed a press release or a review that said “What you’re about to watch is an examination of a man’s rise to power, the costs that power extracts on the human soul and the loss of innocence and youth as exemplified by a sled named Rosebud.” What I’m getting here is that press releases are spoilers, plain and simple. But press releases, and for that matter even non-partisan descriptive criticism are only spoilers for great art which delivers the impact of the artist’s intention through their work regardless of chosen medium. Press releases are apologies for failed art that needs the crutch of verbalized intention.
This exhibition needs no crutch. The work delivers its content. And furthermore, were I to describe the mise en scene in greater detail, it would only limit the interpretative range of the art. This is one of the rare examples of video art that has emotional range and possibility.
It is with this in mind that I refuse to articulate some of the back-stories on display here. I will however address the ingredients of brilliance, strategies of narrative engagement and technical prowess. Experience the installations for yourself. Then, and only then feel free to read the explanations offered at the front desk. To do otherwise is to rob yourself of the pleasures of discovery, the magic of epiphany delivered in the dark galleries of video monitors.
Ms. Breitz uses actors in conventional ways to solicit empathy and narrative identification. Her technical skills as a filmmaker are without question, which is a blessing. Too much video art is just sloppy and unlike a fingerprint smudged charcoal drawing, much video art comes off as amateurish rather than authentic. It’s a matter of the tactile reality of the video medium versus the rough feel of a cold pressed piece of paper. Breitz defies convention with multiple screens and disjunctive editing that draws you in rather than alienates. Her editing is symphonic. The rhythms are jazzy and syncopated but she establishes a beat first only to under cut it with flash edits and staccato sequences that exhilarate. Tight close ups are used as punctuation rather than verbs or nouns.
I’ve stated on several occasions that I believe filmmaking to be the singular medium of the 20-century. When compared with painting or drawing, film is still in its infancy, much like Los Angeles is a pre-teen compared with the likes of New York, Paris or London. And unlike oil painting or India ink, film became an industry, thus delaying its mature use as a fine art medium. And because of this, I believe film to hold potential that far outweighs what we’ve witnessed thus far. Breitz realizes some of this potential in this exemplary exhibition.
Candice Breitz at Perry Rubenstein Gallery continues through December 14th, 2013
-Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, October 28th, 2013