Critics’ Picks

The Quickening, 2006. Installation view.

The Quickening, 2006. Installation view.

New York

Sue de Beer

Marianne Boesky Gallery | 509 West 24th Street
509 West 24th Street
November 30, 2006–January 10, 2007

Sue de Beer’s new video installation, The Quickening, 2006, smartly blends elements of slice-and-dice slasher films with hints of the eccentric gleaned from elder artists Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley. As in her previous work, the gallery contains a sculpture created in tandem with the video production—a thirteen-foot-tall illuminated ring of trees, made from plywood, that projects shadows on the surrounding walls—and a specially constructed screening room, this time decked out with red shag carpet, beanbag chairs, and a dropped ceiling. The video portrays a fragmented narrative, laced with the repressed sexuality endemic to mid-eighteenth-century Puritan New England and voice-overs excerpting texts by Joris-Karl Huysmans, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Jonathan Edwards. More brainy than bawdy, de Beer conflates high and low culture within a frayed psychedelic aesthetic. Shaky camera movements, superimposed images, and cheesy audio effects reinforce a heightened sense of artificiality, and everything—including the campy constructions of femininity—appears disconnected and spurious. Her point, it seems, is to expose the frail underpinnings of most horror films (as well as Puritan witch hunts) and the uneasy visual pleasure—the flip side of fear and disgust—we take when we suspend our disbelief. Taking these sentiments into account, which is easier said than done, de Beer’s exhibition charts a new, well-considered path for her growing oeuvre.