Paul Sietsema

Whitney Museum of American Art

You might think that an artist based in Los Angeles would be concerned, at least minimally, with entertainment value. Not so with Paul Sietsema, whose 16 mm film Empire, 2002, currently on view as part of the Whitney’s Contemporary Series, is blissfully content to fly in the face of not only Hollywood’s categorical imperative but also the gesamtkunst hydraulics of Matthew Barney, the social allegories of Steve McQueen and William Kentridge, and the psychological noir of Eija-Liisa Ahtila. But if the thirty-four-year-old artist’s oblique homage to Warhol’s far longer film of the same name turns away from the narrative or quasi-narrative basis of most contemporary film and video art, where does it turn to?

At first blush, Empire, a straightforward, arguably antiseptic presentation of various types of space—two-dimensional and three-dimensional, biomorphic and geometric, formalist and

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