Blueprint to Fabricating Memories

Video artist Shimon Attie and photographer Roe Ethridge offer up two different, but equally striking paths to exploring identity and memory.

poster for Shimon Attie

Shimon Attie "Racing Clocks Run Slow: Archaeology of a Racetrack"

at Jack Shainman Gallery
in the Chelsea 20th area
This event has ended - (2008-09-04 - 2008-10-04)

poster for Roe Ethridge

Roe Ethridge "Rockaway Redux"

at Andrew Kreps Gallery
in the Chelsea 22nd area
This event has ended - (2008-09-04 - 2008-10-04)

In Reviews by Alex Callender 2008-09-18 print

In the mix of photographic imagery that promises to resonate with Chelsea viewers this fall, two shows distill narrative to a landscape of memory and psychological portraiture, but use vastly different ways of telling the story.

Shimon Attie, The Pit Crew II, 2008. Chromogenic print, 37 x 30 inches. Image courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery.

SHIMON ATTIE’S FAST CAR TO NO PLACE
On view at Jack Shainman Gallery, Shimon Attie reinvents the circumstances and participants of the Bridgehampton Auto Racetrack in his 3-channel, 18-minute video installation, Racing Clocks Run Slow: Archeology of a Racetrack (2008). Absent are the ubiquitous corporate signage, the pop star race car drivers, the density of crowds and cameras, and the bright lights flooding the track. Instead, Attie offers the pure theatrics of speed and causality. To some extent even speed has been sacrificed, as there is no real sense of speed other than the sound of engines revving and shooting forward on asphalt, recorded at the Bridgehampton track in the 1960s. In Racing Clocks Run Slow, Attie masterfully crafts vignettes of former Bridgehampton community members slowly enacting their ritual relationships to the track with almost haunting devotion. The characters themselves exist in a black box void of context and time, essentially a pared down environment removed from the sound and physical hyperbole of the racetrack. Slowly rotating on a circular platform as Attie films them, the pitman attends and the flagman gestures.

The narrative is woven together through tension, juxtaposition of sequences, and the constant and sometimes fierce mechanic buzz of unseen automobiles winding laps. In one frame the camera slowly pans over individual spectators watching silently from a rail demarcating the edge of the track. And in a following frame, Attie voyeuristically lingers in the sparse living room of a Bridgehampton woman watching the race on her television. The same disorienting sound of maneuvering cars maintains the perception of chronological time. Attie’s participants, primarily middle-aged, move slowly through their tasks, an exaggeration of practiced movements that immediately speaks to memory as people play the character of themselves.

Known for his installations connecting the abstraction of memory and history to the concreteness of location and place, Attie here effectively renders a town’s self-reflexive performance, adding the impulse of speed and motion through sound. Paradoxically the video slowly reveals a series of portraits, people recorded like living photo stills. On view from September 23-October 4th, an earlier video work, The Attraction of Onlookers: Aberfan–An Anatomy of a Welsh Village (2008), will complete Shimon Attie’s installation series.

Roe Ethridge, ''Oysters'' (2008). C-print, 24 X 30 inches. Edition of 5. Courtesy of  Andrew Kreps Gallery.

BEACH MEMORIES WITH ROE ETHRIDGE
While Attie uses temporal relationships to construct a narrative, Roe Ethridge’s new collection of large scale C-prints, “Rockaway Redux,” now at Andrew Kreps Gallery, are defined by their absence of cohesive subject matter. In this exhibition, Ethridge explores Bresson’s practice of photography, where image making comes without hierarchy, and all recorded moments reflect human storytelling and self. In “Rockaway Redux,” portraiture, still life, landscape, and abstraction produce a collection of images formed in the lineage and sentiments of art history, yet have a well-defined pop culture and commercial feel. A freedom of economy in their making, and a connect-the-idiosyncratic-dots sensibility, creates a kind of self-conscious travelogue, which is as much defined by the viewer as by Ethridge.

Roe Ethridge, ''Cappy (Mugshot),'' (2008). C-print, 35 1/2 x 27 1/2. Edition of 5. Courtesy of Andrew Kreps Gallery.While the show’s name references the Rockaways, a sleepy slip of island off of Queens, the work was shot in over half a dozen locations that have no specific relationship, like Mumbai and Florida, and taken over a series of years. A closely cropped, posed diptych of Cappy the clown, entitled Cappy/Cappy (Mug Shot) (2008), is followed by Sunset (#3) (2008), a vertical snapshot of an inflamed setting sun falling out of the frame on a bloodshot sky. Without the pleasantries of dictated logic from piece to piece, the show feels at first like the awkward silence during a long elevator ride just before its passengers fall into their own inner monologues and memories. Their only connectivity is their shared physical space.

While the editing of “Rockaway Redux” may be less thematically apparent than Shimon Attie’s, the work has definite cadence. Subjects centered boldly in the frame, defined in rich, sharp bright colors, are followed by an image that could easily be read as a quick candid, beach shot, in which the focus begins to blur and dissolve in a sea of neutral tones. In the gallery, Ethridge provides a series of nimble images that gain relevance as they reflect in one another a non-linear narrative about a universal place removed from context and the people who exist there.

Alex Callender

Alex Callender. Alex Callender is a visual artist and adjunct instructor who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Alex hopes to see the day when this country's student loan system dissolves into a harmless gas and secondary education becomes a right. She also writes a bit. » See other writings

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