Critics’ Picks

The Plains of Sweet Regret, 2004–2007, five-channel video installation, 18 minutes. Installation view.

The Plains of Sweet Regret, 2004–2007, five-channel video installation, 18 minutes. Installation view.

New York

Mary Lucier

Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.
514 West 25th Street
March 10–April 28, 2007

The Plains of Sweet Regret, the treacly title of Mary Lucier’s latest work, dovetails seamlessly with the plaintive wail of the country classic “I Can Still Make Cheyenne,” which lilts through the gallery during this ambitious and oddly poignant installation. In the first half of Lucier’s work, commissioned by the North Dakota Museum of Art and first presented in 2004, five screens each detail a slightly different iteration of the Great Plains’ slow, gothic decline: The abandoned farmhouses, fallow fields, vacant paddocks, and echoing silos are scattered amid the desolation like the ruins of a once-great society. Slow pans capture one-room schoolhouses, rolling tumbleweed, and a bleating, stumbling newborn calf and act out the region’s devolution. At one point, two actors appear, a poorly judged addition to an otherwise uninhabited landscape reverie (akin to her 1983 work Ohio to Giverny: Memory of Light). The second half, which may single-handedly be responsible for a George Strait revival in New York, consists of six and a half minutes of rodeo footage. If that’s enough to keep you away from the gallery, it would be grossly unfair to the kaleidoscopic result Lucier achieves by superimposing a horizontally flipped version of the image over the footage in its original orientation. It’s a deceptively simple yet beautiful meditation on the West, on masculinity, and on a piece of American culture too often portrayed without a hint of romance.