Sunday, September 30, 2012

Image Transfer: Pictures in a Remix Culture

Did postmodernism kill New York art? The question has resonance because relatively little epochal new art has originated there in over 20 years. Anyone looking for a culprit need look no further than the Regarding Warhol show at the Met, featuring work by the maestro himself along with the many pretenders to the throne who followed in his wake. And while Warhol's early work was great, it was his later efforts that set the tone for what came next, the mixed bag of postmodern pop progeny that ranged from moderately brilliant talents like Cindy Sherman, left, to egregiously over-hyped hucksters like Jeff Koons, Richard Prince and all the rest who turned the New York scene into a pretentious extension of Wall Street. So it was fitting that the most incisive review of the show appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek where Lance Esplund opined, “I suggest you skip it. This cramped, predictable, ho-hum exhibition... is a celebration of the artist as opportunist.” Ouch. So how did postmodernism, a movement with roots in late Marxist critical theory, end up as the very thing it was supposed to critique?

The seemingly seamless seque from late Marxist postmodernism to "late capitalist" postmodernism is a long and sad story, but suffice it to say that not all postmodern artists obsessed with mass media so shamelessly sold out, and this Image Transfer expo at Newcomb is proof that they still exist. While all is not thrall-inducing, much of the work is interesting in the way any lost tribe's artifacts can be interesting. So here we have convoluted tropes like Karl Haendel's dazzling pencil drawings of Maltese Falcon stills and Man Ray photograms, below; or Sean Dack's neo-cubist digital images  like Glitch Girl, left, or Sarah VanDerBeek's digital remixes of the work of great photographers from art history. Curated in Seattle, Image Transfer substitutes sobriety for flash but what it and the post-Warhol show at the Met have in common is a cutting edge sensibility—from 20 years ago. ~D. Eric Bookhardt

Image Transfer: Pictures in a Remix Culture: Group Exhibition Curated by Sara Krajewski, Through Oct. 15, Newcomb Art Gallery, Tulane University, 865-5328