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Art

Time's Arrow

Group Photography Eloquently Captures The Mercurial Glimmers Of Changes

IS THAT A TREE IN YOUR DINING ROOM OR...: A still from Hugh Pocock's "Living With A Log."

By Deborah McLeod | Posted 2/14/2007

Rosenberg Gallery's current show is another in a stream-of-consciousness exploration on the vulnerabilities of contemporary life. Wishful Re:Thinking, guest curated by photographer Jacqueline Schlossman, takes shape through the lenses of video and still cameras. What it tracks and documents is so evanescent as to be just about unattainable--the effort to restore control against the destruction of time, expansion, and incaution. It is a story beautifully, stringently revealed by each artist in the group.

Julee Holcomb's vertical, mist-shrouded composite photo of the Washington, D.C., environs, visited by the ghostly presence of those ominous, exhausted Korean War Memorial warriors, is brilliant. The work, "War Memorial I," luminously bridges the wide gap between ephemeral Chosan Dynasty landscape scrolls and contemporary reality-manipulated photographs. The déjà vu quality of the work imagines barely perceptible architectural elements evaporating into horizontal layers of haze. If the gallery only had this single image in it, you could drive home contentedly.

As luck and good, spare curatorial work would have it, Wishful offers a great deal more. Another great metaphysical piece by Holcomb, "Messenger Lost," provides the same eerie vertical disorientation in the ether, this time in the form of a stacked set of satellite dishes arranged in an attenuated pyramid. The dish forms are just barely visible in the misted atmosphere, interceding quietly like a patron saint.

Leslie Furlong is represented with her three-channel video "Interference" and several large stills pulled from it. As if looking out a train window at a Midwestern landscape rushing by, the short is relentless and inescapable in its bracing momentum. Furlong has confused the backdrop location in the three consecutive screens by superimposing two different horizons together. In the immediate foreground--close enough to force an instinctual step back from it--are road signs and utility poles that sizz by with a concentrated Doppler effect and alter the streaming atmosphere in the video. The popping aspect of these occasional passing objects buffets and repeatedly startles the senses.

The video is a remarkable product and its exaggerated psychological impact is unquestionable, but the accompanying stills--in their pixilated, commercially reproduced grain--do little to compound the short's incisive experience. Without some other revelation they come off as a strategy to fill wall space. Her magic is all in the monitor.

Ten untitled ink-jet prints from Kelly Egan's "Velocity Series" do take what Furlong sets up and translates it poetically into a still experience. These are landscapes, too--barely extant, wind-swept, flying past, vanishing as if all is essentially lost and irrevocable. They are softly beautiful and coldly worrisome, distressing and serene.

The jetsam and maneuverings of exurban blight are described in the photos of Jenny McCharen. Within them, nature endeavors to prevail in the stripped soil of development projects, objects are abandoned in the weeds, a sprinkler continues its obligatory work at a cemetery. These are nice in a poignant, if more activist, William Christenberry manner of capturing change in her rural landscape, but the most uncommon of McCharen's images is "The Unfinished Foyer of a Model Home." It offers creepy ritualized eloquence within its nihilistic new gothic space, the only furnishings some exhausted paint supplies and a discarded hoard of rubber gloves abandoned on the floor before the window.

Hugh Pocock does not, however, have this manifest vacuum to worry over any longer. He went out and found a huge tree trunk to run through the center of his house like a spine. In a riveting, if slowed down to real time, video that records the entire event, Pocock and friends take a logging rig out to rescue a fallen oak. You can watch "Living With a Log" with bemused fascination as Pocock's tree is wrested away from its woodland location by the rig's crane and driven miles over and around hilly piedmont terrain to his house.

There the mammoth trunk is carefully inserted through a front window and diligently slid through a series of doors, ultimately breaching the entire house. No one is smiling in the film as this absurd but serious inconvenience is accomplished. The three guys who conduct this rite do so with deadpan concentration. The end result, as the rig drives out of sight, is an intersected, violated suburban house, altered from a comfortable dwelling to a druidic place of worship. Pocock, too, provides still photos, detailing the household transformation--a shot of the kitchen with its neatly stacked cups and plates, the laundry room's cleansers and feather duster, the grandmotherly wallpaper in the dining room. In this case the stills add to the experience.

Along with an enveloping sense of reverence for this sortie, there is a decided environmentally sexual component at work in Pocock's film: It suggests the circumstances when the victors rape the females of a conquered land in order to establish their dominion and introduce their own seed. This outrageously wondrous project leaves you to infer that nature has thusly restored its dominion, on Pocock's block at any rate. There goes the neighborhood.

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