Critics’ Picks

Lauren Kelley, Big Gurl, 2006, still from a color video, 8 minutes 12 seconds.

Lauren Kelley, Big Gurl, 2006, still from a color video, 8 minutes 12 seconds.


“Cinema Remixed and Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image Since 1970”

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
5216 Montrose Boulevard
October 18, 2008–January 4, 2009

This exhibition blasts the viewer with over forty works of contemporary video art and film seen through the prism of black female identity. With no shortage of notable artists, the backbone of “Cinema Remixed” is to be found in the intricacies of autobiographical video art developed by pioneers like Adrian Piper and Howardena Pindell. Several motifs run through the show, not the least of which is sampling and juxtaposition. Some of the artists adopt nefarious images from history and turn the tables on formerly oppressive cultural symbols. A keen grasp of the reconcilable elements of American culture informs some of the best work here. Lauren Kelley repurposes Barbie and other dolls in her cynical but empowering video Big Gurl, 2006. Tracey Moffatt collages clips of black women cast as maids from various films from the 1930s to the ’70s in Lip, 1999. “Cinema Remixed” may be more than you can handle, as this cacophonous exhibition is overly visceral and packed into the gallery space. But beyond the plethora of work here is the desire to let viewers map their own relationship to the artists, and to expose the diversity of reactions to postmodern identity politics. Choice and change go hand in hand, and a resolution to the significance of identity politics may be near with the successes of identity art itself.