Chicago

Casilda Sánchez, Winter Landscape, 2013, HD-video projection, color, sound, 12 minutes 48 seconds; Plexiglas; acrylic paint, 19 x 10 x 3".

Casilda Sánchez, Winter Landscape, 2013, HD-video projection, color, sound, 12 minutes 48 seconds; Plexiglas; acrylic paint, 19 x 10 x 3".

Casilda Sánchez

Aspect/Ratio Projects

Casilda Sánchez, Winter Landscape, 2013, HD-video projection, color, sound, 12 minutes 48 seconds; Plexiglas; acrylic paint, 19 x 10 x 3".

Casilda Sánchez’s best-known digital-video installation, As Inside as the Eye Can See, 2009, pictures two eyes with long lashes approaching each other in extreme close-up. This confrontation between anatomies brings to mind the physical and social collisions of body art, but it also reads as a pun on Clement Greenberg’s celebration of painting as an appeal to “eyesight alone.” Sánchez’s first solo exhibition, mounted at Aspect Ratio, continued to play with conventions of vision and picturing that have been historically linked to painting, but were here approached through the material conditions of the moving image.

For the exhibition’s centerpiece, Winter Landscape, 2013, rather than projecting video onto painted canvas, as artists such as Donald Moffett and Albert Oehlen have done, Sánchez references painting obliquely by rear-projecting a hazy, sepia-filtered long shot of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park onto the semitranslucent surface of three adjoining Plexiglas panels. The triptych is painted with a thin layer of white acrylic and rests on a shelf suspended just below eye level. Sánchez’s piece at first resembles a tableau that has been evacuated of human figures, save a flickering in the distance. And yet, when an adult and a child enter the frame from the foreground, the video suddenly depicts a present-tense actuality, and the details of their pink and red winter clothing abruptly destabilize the distanced view. (The artist, notably, cites the influence of Bruegel, whose window-size panoramas, populated with dense groupings of figures, incorporate narrative intimations that unfold across multiple temporalities). With its simultaneous registers of pictorial statement and continuous motion, the work exemplifies Erwin Panofsky’s use of the term moving picture in his writings on early cinema. Mixing its metaphors, the backlit object also reads as televisual, while its recorded music-box sound track lends the work an uncanny, analog quality akin to that of a windup toy. Sánchez’s post-production addition of soft focus not only adds to this spectral effect but also makes the image appear hand-drawn—a kind of inverse usage of the “blur” as we know it in painting, where it has historically been employed in order to evoke the quality of photographic reproduction.

Of course, the use of landscape in video art has a long history, ranging from Gerry Schum’s 1969 television broadcast of film works by Land art practitioners, to the genre of landscape video exemplified in the Carnegie Museum of Art’s 1988 exhibition “The American Landscape Video: The Electronic Grove,” which included works by Mary Lucier and Frank Gillette, among others. These latter works, which foregrounded media ecology and environmentalism along with notions of place, mobilized the luminism and Romantic elements of nineteenth-century American landscape painting. There was something of a xeroxed quality as well to many early attempts to transmit landscapes on black-and-white, pixelated monitors. Sánchez enters this long-standing dialogue in part through reversal—most overtly via her condensing of immersive, projected video into an intimate scale. She seems less concerned with painting’s usefulness for video than with video’s ability to reconsider how we read the world through painting.

Yet this exhibition was not restricted to any one medium. A series of drawings of feet extending vertically into elongated limbs, the fifth part of Sánchez’s series “Quisiera ser tan alto como la luna” (I Wish I Were as Tall as the Moon), 2012–, was paired with a sculptural iteration of this foot-to-hand motif that was crafted out of plaster and stood almost seven feet tall; close by, a flat-screen monitor showed footage of this sculpture’s creation. If Bruce Nauman’s body molds—such as From Hand to Mouth, 1967—deconstructed the indexical rhetoric of self-portraiture, casting the body of a woman in place of the artist’s own, Sánchez similarly questions the limits of self; although she uses her own foot and hand as models, she stretches the limbs beyond human proportion. While the interplay of drawing, video, and sculpture successfully expands Sánchez’s formal investigations of movement and stillness, most compelling is the hybrid object of Winter Landscape—a projection that approaches painting as if it were new media all along.

Solveig Nelson