New York

Gretchen Bender

Nature Mode Gallery

If Levine’s work reflects on the melancholy residues of the past, Gretchen Bender’s suggests a detached and dispassionate glance which bears no allegiance to cultural memory. The images she annexes include those of contemporary artists which form the cultural currency of the immediate present; they are so of-the-moment as to incorporate, in the small Untitled, 1983, the poster that accompanied Keith Haring’s show concurrent with her own.

In this installation there was no painstaking craft, no framing or fetishization of the object. The images were produced by photomechanical or electronic techniques: rephotographed from magazines, processed through video technology, or silkscreened, they were mounted on sign tin and presented flush to the wall. The effect was almost as casual as that of the photo-assemblage one might find on a high school kid’s bedroom wall; in these juxtapositions of images of variable scale and content,whatever philosophical or ideological differences are represented by each artist’s work became homogenized and subsumed under Bender’s particular reuse and repackaging. Reading from left to right in the large Untitled, 1983, two identical eclipses by Jack Goldstein, rephotographed from a recent issue of Artforum, give way to a vertical bank of images which include a video-processed Julian Schnabel work and computer-generated graphics, followed by a photograph of the Max Bill sculpture in front of the Time & Life Building, and a white-on-white silkscreened version of Robert Longo’s sci-fi missile site in Sword of the Pig, 1983. On the opposite wall, Autopsy, 1983, presented two familiar David Salle images: his formica abstraction from The Happy Writers, 1981, and the photograph of the woman in Autopsy, 1981, from which Bender has removed the somewhat offensive cones. These are overlapped by four computerized images of tanks, with the inscription, “Teaching a blind computer to see a tank.” In counterpoint at the back of the gallery were a video monitor playing a continuous stream of superimposed images of art and technology, and Mid-Effect Hold, 1983, which consists of further graphics in tandem with a photograph, derived from the tape, that includes the unposed figure of Cindy Sherman, the only “humanized” image in the show.

Bender presents a world of high-tech information-processing in which images are spewed out of the media with such rapidity and repetition that there is no time to accrue a history, to assimilate content, or to reflect upon meaning. Images of art, themselves already processed through the image banks of culture, become equalized with those of an indifferent computer graphics and an ominously aggressive technology. Like Levine, Bender is not an author of images but a spectator of the image-producing machine of society. While Levine chooses to focus on the emasculated visions of Modernism, Bender attends to the problem of power, and what emerges is a vision of technology that has problems in restraining itself from becoming more than simply representation.

Jean Fisher