Art in the City: Sensory Overload

06/06/2007 12:00 AM |

Killing Time
Exit Art, through July 28

Non-profit gallery Exit Art has its heart in the right place, but its curators could do with better editing skills. The latest multimedia hodgepodge includes the work of more than 70 contemporary Cuban artists whose pieces address the subject of time, ostensibly as it relates to their country’s revolution. This proves to be an unfocused topic. What fills (and we mean fills) the expansive space ranges from being ingenius to too messy and obtuse to warrant close attention. Included in the former category is Alexandre Arrechea’s White Corner (Esquina Blanca), an inventive video installation in which a self-portrait of the artist is projected on either side of a protruding corner. In the left-hand shot, Arrechea wields a machete, on the right, a baseball bat. Both men hover at the edge of their wall, contemplating stepping forward and attacking the person lurking just out of sight. It’s a cogent comment on blind fear of the “other”— an “other” who is more similar to us than different. Maritza Molina, meanwhile, considers the other sex (as well as her own) with two large-scale color photos. In Carrying Tradition, the artist is naked and hitched to a rough wooden wagon, on which stand a dozen men in suits. The gender commentary here verges on didactic, but the image quality is irresistably sharp and the subject matter equi-distant between deadpan comedy and horror flick. Similarly easy on the eyes is Molina’s Cutting the Pattern, a photo of the artist adorning a forest with Kara Walker-like silhouettes. The white paper depicts women throughout the ages: We see Victorian gowns, flapper getups and 1970s mini-dresses, all lending to the dreamlike scene a weight of historical import. A few other pieces — like Glenda Leon’s trippy video of a flower sprouting from a sleeping woman’s floral dress — manage to stand out from what is mostly a chaotic jumble of art, displayed in such a way (photos hanging from the ceiling; ones at crouching level on the wall) as to make it difficult to focus on the work. Perhaps we’re too accustomed to the pristine white cube: Exit’s loosey-goosey exhibition tactics reflect its rejection of the mainstream New York art scene. On the other hand, the artists deserve a space that allows their pieces to be contemplated; here they’re just killing time.