Critics’ Picks

Farbtest, Die Rote Fahne II (Color Test, the Red Flag II), 2002.

Farbtest, Die Rote Fahne II (Color Test, the Red Flag II), 2002.

New York

Felix Gmelin

Maccarone | 630 Greenwich Street
630 Greenwich Street
May 9–July 30, 2004

While his distinctive methods of questioning historicity are already well established in Europe, this is Felix Gmelin's first exhibition in New York. His video installation Farbtest, Die Rote Fahne II (Color Test, the Red Flag II), 2002, shown to great acclaim at the last Venice Biennale, is now on view at Maccarone, Inc. alongside newer, equally thoughtful works. In one, Gmelin projects two found films—a 1974 propagandist documentary about Maoist education and a 1967 hippie celebration of the positive effects of drug use—but switches their soundtracks, conflating the two narratives to disconcerting effect. He takes on the protest movement in Farbtest. . . (a two-channel work that shows a 1968 street action alongside Gmelin’s recent restaging of the event) and in The Voice of the People, 2003, a placard that leans lackadaisically against Maccarone's storefront wall. Carefully daubed in oils on the placard is that internationally recognizable anti-war statement: Picasso's Guernica. In the projection Flatbed, The Blue Curtain, 2003, four workers paint another Guernica replica, this one life-size. The film's beauty—it is shot in negative—and sheer length (four hours) make up for its conclusion, a stilted reference to the recent curtaining-off of the United Nation's own Guernica copy. This is the only false note in an otherwise perspicacious exhibition. Overtly political art often risks being didactic, but with his subtle gestures Gmelin for the most part circumvents the trap.