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A Review of
"Art and Film since 1945:
Hall of Mirrors at MOCA"


by Michael Cohen


Hall of Mirrors, with its funhouse-installation design, constant barrage of movie clips and noisy mixed-media projections, embodies a Hollywood populism more often found in the latest Jurassic Park ride. As an outpost for high culture in Hollywood's company town MOCA has acknowledged its context, staging what could be seen as a site-specific retrospective, by turning the white cube of the art museum into the black box of cinema.

Joseph Cornell: Greta Garbo (c.1939)

Combining Kerry Brougher's interest in deconstructing cinema with an atmosphere of behind-the-scenes drama, Hall of Mirrors literally highlights the mechanical apparatus of projection and the psychological properties of vision. This strategy is most engaging in the construction of a caged catwalk, 50 feet in the air, which straddles the two sides of the exhibition. As one walks across the narrow ramp, the audience and the projectionists (wholly immersed in
attending to their industrial revolution-style equipment) share the claustrophobic ramp. At the end of the catwalk, the viewer steps directly into the white light of Tony Conrad's "Flicker"--cinema pared down to its essential character--a hypnotically flickering projector which follows the pacing of a Hollywood film. Both installations successfully reveal the machinery behind cinema's illusions.

The central positioning of Warhol's factory screen tests and star paintings takes the image of the soundstage from blue-collar to high-glamour. Warhol's oscillations between static films like "empire" and the newsreel effects of the celebrity paintings makes the curator's case for the hybridization of art and film. Michelangelo Antonioni: Scene from Blow-Up (1966)

Directly flouting the modernist theorists Clement Greenberg and Rudolph Arnheim, who saw the mixing of art and film as a degradation of those media's self-true or "pure" elements, the artists Brougher features take unabashed pleasure in the miscegenation of the two.
Paul Ruscha: 9, 8, 7, 6 (1991)

Chris Marker's "silent film" uploads multiple computer processed sirens of the screen, simultaneously (like his classic "La Jette") fusing a seductive past with digital dreams of the future.

Cindy Bernard: Ask the Dust: Vertigo (1958/1990) (1990)

Carolee Schneeman's "Up to and including Her Limits" also jumbles projected film, monitors and drawings made from each point her arm could reach while her body was suspended in a sling, the resulting video/installation leaves a mess of once-rigid formal distinctions.

In general, the exhibition contains too many arbitrary curatorial choices to be wholly successful. Is "Breathless? really a more apt deconstruction of cinema than "Le Gai Savoir"? What about a 1980s Ed Ruscha painting versus his more heterogeneous and experientially cinematic 1960s versions? The questions accumulate to the point where much of the work in the show seems randomly chosen. But
replaceability again raises the specter of Hollywood, where movies routinely assemble stars, music, explosions, etcetera, with little regard for precise meaning. Nevertheless, with its visceral pleasures and intriguing subplots, this art world remake of a Universal Studios attraction is well worth the trip. Michael Powell: Scene from Peeping Tom (1959)


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