New York

Susanne M. Winterling

Daniel Reich Gallery

Lap dissolves have lost much of the appeal they had back when Citizen Kane (1941) introduced the Xanadu manse through an ominous series of overlapping images, each fading out as the subsequent one faded in, or when La Jetée (1962) utilized the transition for a more subjective sequence in which, according to the narrator, “images begin to ooze like confessions.” By now, our eyes have become so conditioned by the more jarring interruptions of jump cuts and channel hops that multiple fade-outs and fade-ins seem rather hokey, relegated to “lesser” forms like screen savers and club visuals.

What, then, to make of Berlin-based artist Susanne M. Winterling’s video montage Piles of Shade, 2006, on view in her recent exhibition “I’ll be your mirror, but i’ll dissolve . . .” at Daniel Reich Gallery? Transitioning into one another via watery dissolves, the work’s images, culled in part from books, magazines, and record covers, depict what the artist calls “female icons”—a stream that includes an androgynous fashion model, Left Bank figures of the 1920s and ’30s, and Annemarie Schwarzenbach (a Swiss writer, photographer, and aristocrat-cum-radical). At one point, a multiple-exposure silhouette of Winterling, actress Tilda Swinton, and singer Brigitte Fontaine freezes in an acid-bright tableau that is a template for the synthetic sensibility expressed throughout the show. Identity, particularly female identity, here seems to be considered a collective blend rather than something unique to the individual.

Winterling portrays women in the process of becoming themselves, a process sometimes halted by societal forces (here represented, in a collage titled Porcellanpferd, 2007, by a still from Werner Fassbinder’s 1974 film Effi Briest that shows the disenfranchised title character in bed, gazing off to the side) and some- times verging on becoming one another. In the video Le sens pratique, 2005, for example, two female figures wearing black stand against a black background continually swapping a beige Burberry trench coat; one woman reaches around the other’s shoulders to dress her, an action that verges on an embrace. The unisex garment defines their bodies, which otherwise, given the monochromatic setting, appear to be nothing more than floating hands and heads. Likewise, the subject of Untitled (play Winterling), 2007, merges with the black box theater in which she stands. Her dark top and slicked-back hair are barely visible, while her hands, face, and starched white shirt cuffs hover as she plays a violin made by a company called Winterling (founded by a distant relative of the artist). In both videos the figures are positioned in the foreground, yet they appear to recede into the distance.

Winterling’s artworks appear to offer a problematic view of female identity as essentially inchoate. But the works seem to do so only to reflect the very framing devices (photographic and social) that can enclose their subjects, whether innocuously or dangerously. Using dated techniques and visual modes, like dissolves, film projectors, and black-and-white formats, Winterling resurrects not only the occasional old image but also the methods by which subjects have been parceled out over time. In MGM, 1975, Jack Goldstein détourned the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer insignia by placing its regal lion on a red ground, the gold filmstrips ironically crowning the beast whose roar played on loop. In Goldwyn again customized, 2007, exhibited alongside the shot from Effi Briest, Winterling shows the same logo in black and white, the beast conspicuously absent, the silver curlicues of its logo encircling only black space. By reducing the content and rendering the scene eerily still, Winterling suggests that cinema may frame the world it takes as its subject but left to its own devices is merely strips of celluloid.

Kyle Bentley