Critics’ Picks

Diana Thater, Perfect Devotion Number Four, 2008, digital projector, DVD, DVD player, screen, tripod, wooden chair, and green gels, dimensions variable.

Los Angeles

Diana Thater

6150 Wilshire Blvd.
September 18–October 25

Once the arena of renegade anti-object, anticonsumerist artists, the medium of video has become more common in contemporary art over the past decade, aided not least by the increasing accessibility—both technically and financially—of camcorders, desktop video-editing software, and other technology for making and showing moving pictures. Unlike early video artists of the ’70s, for whom technology was integral to the work, many artists now use video as an adjunct or footnote to multimedia practices; video monitors are a standard addition to many exhibitions. In this context, Diana Thater takes a more traditional approach—since the early 1990s, her work has been marked by a vigorous exploration of the broader implications, technology, and innovations of the medium. The four works in her newest exhibition each use different equipment and means of display, with colored gels placed on windows throughout the gallery lending a surreal sensibility to individual works and to the installation as a whole.

Addressing themes of entrapment and autonomy, these works expose the blurry line between natural and constructed environments in evocative and subtle ways. In Perfect Devotion Number Four, 2008, two tigers are seen romping and playing in transparently layered imagery that shifts blearily over grass and earth. Whether the animals are captive or free is unclear until the camera’s view expands to include curious bystanders behind a fence. Exhibited on a freestanding screen, the work is bathed in sunlight filtered through green window gels, mingling artificial and natural light. Also included is an earlier work, Ginger Kittens, 1994; as relevant today as when it was made, this fascinating video installation offers a new take on the convention of landscape imagery. Brown, gold, and green lines of earth appear in constant motion while two identical fields of sunflowers mirror and oppose each other as if in an endless cycle of consumption and regeneration. Thater's work is neither distinct from nor held captive by the media used to make and display it, and her process parallels the complex interrelationship these works explore between organic and simulated experience.