Critics’ Picks

Anna K.E., Gloss of a Forehead, 2015, digital video, 9 minutes 32 seconds.

Anna K.E., Gloss of a Forehead, 2015, digital video, 9 minutes 32 seconds.

New York

“Enchanted Space”

Fridman Gallery
169 Bowery
May 2–June 6, 2015

A woman’s tongue licks and slurps brightly colored candy and cake decorations off a pane of glass positioned above the camera lens in Marilyn Minter’s eight-minute video Green Pink Caviar, 2009. The fluorescent hues of the film illuminate the darkened gallery, as meditative music plays through headphones hanging nearby. Dana Levy’s palette in the video Everglades, 2014, projected onto the back wall, is less obnoxious but equally provocative, toying with the viewer as voyeur. The video was shot at night in Florida’s Everglades National Park: A full spectrum of colored lights permeates the park’s dense vegetation as gallery visitors listen to distorted sounds of environmental destruction playing from speakers overhead.

Themes of objectification and spectatorship, commonly associated with Minter’s cropped close-up shots, also appear in Anna K.E.’s video Gloss of Forehead, 2015, but K.E. pushes them beyond glamour and the fetishized female form. Her comparatively wide camera angle reveals an disheveled artist’s studio and engenders a narrative about the economics of aesthetic cultural production as its subject moves objects and materials meaninglessly around the space. The figure is doubled over and anonymous, its bare bottom facing the camera as if to mock it. As in Levy’s piece, it’s easier to focus on the visual spectacle here rather than considering the poignancy posed by the distortion of natural phenomena and the human form.

“Enchanted Space” is Barbara London’s first curatorial project since leaving MoMA in 2013, and its perversity results partially from watching these three videos in the dark. But perhaps there is also a guilty pleasure to be had in participating in the self-abasement of these human and environmental subjects, as well as of ourselves.