The theme of this year’s Site Santa Fe International Biennial, titled “The Dissolve,” is the hybrid art that results from “a mingling of up-to-the-minute technology and traditional visual arts…with dance, music, and film. The fundamental form of this new work is animation, uniting the technological (the camera) with the hand-made (drawing).”
The show sets the context with historical works — early animations and films by the Edison company, Dziga Vertov, and shadow puppetry by Lotte Reiniger — that are juxtaposed with related recent work — videos by Robin Rhode, Kara Walker, Robert Pruitt (not to be confused with the fatuous careerist Rob Pruitt), Paul Chan, William Kentridge, Federico Solmi, and others.
There are flip books of flying airplanes drawn by Hiraki Sawa, an autobiographical song and animation by the Viennese artist Maria Lassnig, and the superb video of Venezuelan artist Oscar Muñoz who uses water and brush to draw a portrait on a hot stone that perpetually evaporates his never-ending image. (I first saw this many years ago in Venice and never forgot it.) It’s really a rich variety of work.
The co-curators are Sarah Lewis, an art history doctoral candidate at Yale, and Danial Belasco, an associate curator of postwar and contemporary art and design at The Jewish Museum in New York. When I met with them in Chelsea early this year, they impressed me not only with the topicality of their show’s theme and the coherency of their laptop presentation, but also with the intelligence and articulateness with which they discussed the project, and the fact that they had completed all the work half a year ahead of time.
Unfortunately, since it opened on June 20, I have not been able to see the show in person. If you haven’t been there either, and may not get a chance before it closes on January 2, 2011, make a virtual visit via the exhibition’s web site — which includes excerpts, and in some cases the full length, of the various animations by most of the 26 artists in the show.
The computer tour is not a substitute for seeing the exhibition itself – British architect David Adjaye designed the installation, separating the screenings by semi-transparent scrims rather than housing them in black boxes – but the presentation is far superior to the on-line material that much larger institutions offer for most contemporary art shows.