Critics’ Picks

Tim Sullivan, Streetcar Named Desire, Marlon Brando (George Kuchar), 2009, archival digital print mounted on aluminum, 30 x 50".

Tim Sullivan, Streetcar Named Desire, Marlon Brando (George Kuchar), 2009, archival digital print mounted on aluminum, 30 x 50".

San Francisco

Tim Sullivan

Steven Wolf Fine Arts
2747 19th Street, Suite A
May 7–June 27, 2009

Andy Warhol didn’t live long enough to experiment with freeze-framing films on DVD, but if he had, the results might have resembled Tim Sullivan’s cinema-inspired photographs and videos in spirit. Like Warhol, Sullivan is pale of complexion and hair color and shares an interest in creating a cottage industry of filtering images of pop culture. For his first solo exhibition at this gallery, titled “You Feel Me?,” Sullivan looks for emotional triggers in Hollywood classics—no obscure subtitled source material here—as he re-creates reaction shots from films through gorgeously washed-out photo-booth snaps. The spirit of Ethel Scull looms as the artist himself stars in a long, horizontal work, Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland (Tim Sullivan) (all works 2009). The piece cleverly represents that film’s contrast between black-and-white and saturated Technicolor hues with a central section photographed in a color-photo booth, though both the background and Sullivan’s gingham shirt are monochromatically pale blue. While the ID-card format of the pictures suggests film frames, the reductive reaction shots don’t easily recall Garland’s performance—rather, we see Sullivan simply grimace, smile, and express surprise that is both entertaining and oddly clinical (fittingly, Sullivan also refers to psychological studies of emotion with these images). There’s a bit more campy glee to underground filmmaker George Kuchar, a mentor figure to the artist, who emulates Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and The Wild One in a photo strip and a rear-screen projection video, respectively. In a video loop, Kuchar muse (and celebrity nudist) Linda Martinez dons a platinum wig to embody Marilyn Monroe poses in Something’s Got to Give. Oddly enough, here Sullivan does something akin to making a low-rent version of Roni Horn’s 2005 Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert). We’re all acting, these works suggest, it’s just a matter of citing the source.