Sunday, November 7, 2010

Deja Vu All Over Again: Campbell and Vis at NOMA

                
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It's really just the two of them. Performance and multimedia artists Tony Campbell and Matt Vis have long appeared under their Generic Art Solutions (G.A.S.) imprimatur, but only in recent times have they seemingly multiplied in number. For instance, they once cast themselves in a photomontage rather like a local post-Katrina version of Leonardo’s LAST SUPPER, with beer-chugging disciples at a spread of boiled seafood next to a trailer. In BORDER PATROL, bottom, they portray illegal aliens confronted by rifle-pointing troops (also themselves) in a remake of Manet’s EXECUTION OF EMPORER MAXIMILLIAN. But their most spectacular effort is THE RAFT, top, a 16-foot long photomontage version of Gericault’s RAFT OF THE MEDUSA printed billboard paper. Inspired by the BP oil disaster and the workers killed or set adrift in the Gulf, it’s a lot like the 19th century original peopled by modern offshore oil rig workers—themselves again—thanks to Campbell’s persuasive way with Photoshop. Surrounding it in the gallery are photographs of empty sea and sky, and here their stark minimalism provides counterpoint to the overwrought scene on the raft. Nearby is their photographic remake of Francis Bacon’s painting based on Velasquez’ portrait of Pope Innocent X, only theirs is closer to the original, with a convict, below, in an electric chair in place of Pope Innocent on his throne.

    Other pieces employing alternative media include DOUBLE AGENTS, above, a silkscreen on stainless steel with Vis and Campbell as M-16 wielding paramilitaries rather like Blackwater mercenaries, or escapees from a James Bond thriller. A video of Campbell as a fashionable diner served by Vis as a nihilist waiter recalls classical European art cinema gone slapstick: as Vis hands him the bill, he yanks the tablecloth from under the dishes, sending them crashing. This too is a comment on careless corporations and the messes they make in the pursuit of profits, damage for which they appear increasingly confident that they will never really have to pay in full. ~Bookhardt


 DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN: Mixed Media Works by Tony Campbell and Matt Vis
Through Feb. 13.
New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, 658-4100; www.noma.org