New York

Anneè Olofsson

Marianne Boesky Gallery | 509 West 24th Street

Many of the new narrative dimensions in contemporary art unfold from the endless melodrama of domestic life. The early-twenty-first-century idea of domesticity has turned inward from extroverted, upbeat notions of the everyday, now favoring darker reflections on who we are at home in the semiprivate space of family life-with artworks appearing that aren't nearly as lite as the “lifestyle” art that proliferated in the '90s. Rather than merely point in the direction of home with decor-ready objects or focus on the ambience of ultrafashionable people living and working together in style, themes of domesticity are yielding to psychological ambiguities that erupt at the seams where memory and fantasy meet. Somewhere near that intersection, in a place carved out of love and angst, artist Anneè Olofsson tries to get to the bottom of it all by exploring her relationship with her father.

In a series of five large C-prints, each titled Skinned, 2002, Olofsson appears with her back to the camera, wearing a skintight, flesh-colored shirt, under which a pair of hands gropes her—her shoulders, her arms, and so on. The images are creepy yet benign. Nothing says “father” except the photographs' proximity to three video installations that attempt to recuperate (or simply fixate on) some aspect of life with Dad. In one of these, Do you know how I feel around you, 2002, a wildly exaggerated shadow profile falls across Olofsson's passive form and flickers to life as her body rotates in space, suggesting physical and psychological possession. Ricochet, 2001, by far the most successful projection piece, is a beautifully choreographed pas de deux between Olofsson and two male partners who repeatedly embrace and then reject her in luscious color and slow time.

It's not obvious whether the hands in Skinned or the profile in Do you know how I feel. . . are even masculine, let alone Daddy's, but Olofsson hammers everything in place in Trick or Treat, 2002, a thirty-minute DVD projection that takes us on a surreal drive with Dad. It's winter, and we're somewhere near Olofsson's girlhood home in suburban Sweden. She's waiting for him to pick her up and he's late—did he forget? No, he arrives and they drive around without ever going anywhere except, eventually, back home. Both wear masks, as if their mutual soul-baring required prophylactics. Dialogue that promises to be profound goes nowhere fast. “Have you ever hit anyone?” she asks.“Yes,” he answers, then it's on to her next question in this timid version of “everything you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask” Let's see, “Have I ever disappointed you?” she asks as they drive in the darkness. “How old were you when you first had sex? Have you ever had sexual feeling for me?” He remembers one time, after the divorce, when she didn't call. Nothing more. No deep well of shared experience seems to underwrite their relationship, no poignant memories surface.

Their talk is so perfunctory and predictable; so brittle and, well, boring. Father and daughter attempt to connect as their drive seemingly goes on forever—long enough for the viewer to reflect on many things: the couples and silences in Ingmar Bergman's films; the institutionalized support in Sweden for beautiful, melancholic art with big production values that travels well abroad; the distillation (dumbing down, too) of one of the mysteries of life (father-daughter relationships) into visual bites and one-liners suitable for quick consumption.

Jan Avgikos