Laura U. Marks

  • James Luna

    James Luna once lay in a vitrine of the kind found in natural-history museums, a live exhibit, his scars from drunken accidents marked with little labels. And in a videotape of a Christmas Eve spent at home on the Luiseño reservation in California (made in 1993 with filmmaker Isaac Artenstein), Luna was the picture of abjection, going through a six-pack and innumerable cigarettes while making abortive telephone calls to loved ones. The bleakness in I.una’s work has functioned as a protective camouflage, as a way of saying, “There’s no transcendence here, no Indian spirituality to salve your

  • “Photography and Beyond in Japan: Space, Time, and Memory”

    While photography is generally considered to be the technological child of Western perspective and representation, the 12 artists in this show approach the medium in ways that draw on both Japanese and Western traditions. Japanese photography is fundamentally a hybrid medium, partly because Western art is the source of much of the barrage of visual information that constitutes the contemporary Japanese cultural imaginary. The organizers of this exhibition of Japanese photography and photographically informed painting took pains to structure the viewer’s experience, in the effort to preempt

  • Mary Swanson

    The most interesting work I have seen lately has generally been less than a foot square in size—an intimacy of scale that is an invitation into an internal universe. Mary Swanson’s modest airbrushed drawings, meticulous india-ink renderings of a world populated by inanimate but spirited entitles, are a new addition to the category of the small piece. Swanson assembles her small beings from various nameable and unnameable, fragmentary sources: twisted roots, the bowl of a decorative pipe, a tulip, the broken blades of a hand fan, a wooden gizmo that resembles the ribs of an umbrella. Like characters

  • Dentro Brasil

    A surprising collection of new Brazilian art in various media, “Dentro Brasil” (Inside Brazil) included installations by artist/poet Arnaldo Antunes and Bruce and Norman Yonemoto as well as the video program reviewed here. This program comprised 31 works which represented the results of an exchange with four Brazilian cities initiated by Bruce Yonemoto and curator Carole Ann Klonarides. At least from a North American perspective, many of the videotapes in “Dentro Brasil” presented an unusually energetic mix of elements that ignored conventional distinctions among various genres.

    Video is a young

  • “Press/Enter”

    “Press/Enter: Between Seduction and Disbelief,” an exhibition of interactive technological works, investigated the potential eroticism in the relations between the human and the mechanical. In the best of these works, time is experienced as a viscous material on whose surface the viewer slips. Jim Campbell’s Memory/Recollection, 1980, often shown on the interactive-media circuit, captures and stores images of viewers, replaying them on a series of small monitors with increasing image decay. The image eventually disintegrates in the final monitor, occasioning a jab of nostalgia.

    Campbell’s Untitled

  • Steve Reinke

    Having nearly completed his hundred-part oeuvre “The Hundred Videos,” 1989–19, Steve Reinke recently exhibited videos 55 through 67. In a city so dense with smart psychoanalytic cinema, Reinke wields the language of the unconscious as lightly as a portable video camera. He plays with the thinness of images and the inadequacy of words, the gap between language and desire. Ever inventive and curious, he uses video like a sketch pad. Most of the works are between 30 seconds and 4 minutes long and very simply constructed: with minimal camera movement or a little archival material, some text, and a

  • Janet Cardiff

    Janet Cardiff’s installation To Touch, 1993, reminds us that memory is encoded in our bodies and that touch can trigger a flood of associations. This sound-based installation depended on the spectator to establish corporeal connections between sound, touch, and memory. Except for a rough table, worn with the years and still bearing a few traces of paint, the large, dim space was empty. Twenty small speakers hung from the ceiling along the edges of the room. When a visitor approached the table and touched it, the speakers would emit sounds corresponding to specific places on the table’s surface.

  • Jane Ash Poitras

    Many of Jane Ash Poitras’ paintings are detailed homages to traditional First Nations leaders: Poundmaker, Short Bull Tatanka Ptecila, Isapo Mukito Crowfoot. For Poitras history is not static but vital. She takes the power away from forces of destruction by focusing on the genealogies and contemporary lives of her own people. In Generations Late (all works 1994), for example, Black Elk and his descendants share the frame with “Chris” Columbus as though the latter were a casual afterthought, just another relative. Yet the 1930 picture of Black Elk and his son has a much more colonial inflection:

  • Robert Houle

    The title of Robert Houle’s exhibition, “Premises for Self Rule,” refers to the conditions of the treaties between the Canadian government and First Nations groups that were designed to ensure self-government for aboriginal peoples. Given Canada’s history of broken treaties, those premises might seem unachievable. While in practice these treaties have set up what amounts to managed extinction, they still provide a standard for the self-determination of First Nations peoples, as Houle’s exhibition points out.

    Houle’s five tableaux are organized around a series of treaties signed between 1763 and

  • “For Our Own Pleasure”

    The Orientalism that has framed Asian women’s sexuality was addressed by some of the Asian diaspora artists in “For Our Own Pleasure” in the alternately witty and fatigued tones of deconstruction. Their works provided the support for the more perilous explorations of desire engaged in by other artists. Brenda Joy Lem’s and Helen Lee’s playful, sensual celebrations might have been the stuff of softcore porn without the acerbic analyses of stereotypes provided by other works in the show. Kyo Maclear, for example, pinned 24 butterflies to a cork-covered wall and attached ostensibly descriptive

  • Colette Whiten

    Colette Whiten’s needlepoints are based on tiny images taken from newspapers, images that play on the reader’s sense of helplessness in the face of distant events. In this show, she exhibited four new images along with the graphs she used to painstakingly transfer the newsprint images to needlepoint. In Mob Attacks Somali Woman, 1993–94, the fear on the woman’s face and the ambiguous expressions of the men surrounding her are doubly frozen—in the arbitrary closing of the camera’s shutter and in the permanence of Whiten’s handiwork. These needleworks, despite their precious size, are striking in

  • Revelaciones

    These site-specific works by eight Hispanic artists addressed the unstable definition of this ethnic group in the U.S. and within institutions of “high” culture. “Revelaciones/Revelations: Hispanic Art of Evanescence” reflected critically on the museum in the expected way, but also proved extremely volatile, catalyzing events at this well-heeled campus that escaped the confines of the institution. Its one lasting artifact, the stunning catalogue, cannot capture these critical confrontations.

    The seven-foot black walls of Daniel Martinez’s The Castle is Burning (all works 1993) transformed the

  • Shonagh Adelman

    Some recent lesbian and feminist erotic imagery suggests that the road to libidinal democracy is to create as many objects of desire as possible. By contrast, Shonagh Adelman’s installation Tele Donna, 1994, takes the view that by definition desire cannot be captured in images but must creep around them.

    Entering a large, darkened room, the viewer encountered 11 tall, black-lit boxes arranged in a V. Each pictures the figure of a woman from a different era of Western history. This reverse phalanx formation was itself interesting, for the rather intimidating images both confronted the viewer and

  • Joanne Tod

    In her new series of paintings, Joanne Tod asserts the value of painting and painterliness against the more ascetic qualities of lately trendier art forms—although her only innovation in these very large works is to paint on layers of nylon mesh. The panel underneath appears hazily through the top layer, which is half obscured by figures. All the works replicate a museum or gallery interior, such as the Henry Moore room at the Art Gallery of Ontario, or Matthew Barney’s installation at Barbara Gladstone Gallery in New York. In front of these scenes a couture-clad model appears, hard-edged against

  • “The Final Frontier”

    The frontier examined in this exhibition is both an internal and external one: that of the body as it meets and dissolves into the technological. It is becoming clear that the things we have thought of as integral and unique to the body no longer are, as technological prostheses continue to amplify and distend its properties. Genetic and cosmetic selection can turn out legions of identically desirable chickens, tomatoes, and pectorals; true love can be found in the virtual meeting places of the Net.

    To renegotiate what counts as human is not just to accept technological innovation; it also involves

  • Teresa Cullen

    Teresa Cullen’s painterly surfaces seem simultaneously to explode and engulf the objects she depicts. Cullen uses color to intoxicating effect: rich browns, smoldering oranges, whites as pale as translucent skin.

    Color in her paintings exceeds the boundaries of objects—or the objects’ like solar cells, absorb and intensify ambient color. In Time’s Backyard, 1992, for example, white forms hover on an earthy grayish surface grazed with flame-colored yellows and sky-blues. The objects seem dematerialized—both time-worn and ethereal—but the surface that engenders them remains tactile and sensual.


  • John Scott

    This simple, untitled installation—John Scott’s sincere-biker-esthetic memento mori—invited reflection on the transience of life, virility, and fossil fuels. It consisted of 20 skulls-and-crossbones on paper warped to accommodate a light bulb placed behind each image that was, in turn, hooked up to a tape recorder. All the light bulbs flickered, feebly and brightly, in response to the sound of the artist singing Kurt Weill’s “September Song.” This matrix of drawings with lights connected by black cables recalled some of Christian Boltanski’s installations, which used similar means to memorialize

  • Andy Fabo

    “It gets harder and harder to throw things away,” Andy Fabo says, in a taped studio visit that accompanied his recent show. Fabo preserves the detritus of his stunningly cluttered work and living space—old grant applications, Tom of Finland drawings, wrapping paper, files inherited from a friend who died—not slavishly, but with an offhand respect for what it may become. Recent personal and political circumstances produce seismic shifts in these layers of accumulated junk. Old things suddenly abut new things with surprising appropriateness, or acquire meanings they did not have. AIDS has been

  • Deborah Samuel

    The photographs in Deborah Samuel’s show “Venus Passage” bear witness to ritual violence: she paints her models in thick black strokes that evoke bodily alterations ranging from decorative scarification to sex change. Some of the “surgery” has been drastic, as though to introduce some missing organs or otherwise to mediate between the unprotected body and the cruel environment in which it must function. A rope of stitches up a male back suggests either the removal or the implantation of a spine—though the latter seems more likely, since for Samuel masculinity is severely in crisis: her male