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Review: Cal Crawford at Sister gallery

May 28, 2009 |  7:00 pm

Sister[1] In his first solo show, Cal Crawford puts the twin forces of attraction and repulsion to work. And work they do — on your vision, your viscera, your pulse. As uncomfortable as it is to stay in the space he’s created at Sister gallery, it takes a monumental act of will to leave it. Crawford is an unabashed mesmerist, using tricks of various trades to seize attention and hold it hostage.

The installation throbs with light and sound, transforming the gallery into a perversely seductive endurance test. A black-and-white striped vinyl banner partially blocks entrance into the room, while strobe flashes and a relentless, hypnotic piano melody beckon you further inside.

In the far corners of the room, video monitors hurl out the phrase “Threats You Can Keep,” one spinning, flashing word at a time. On a small upright panel on the floor, projectors sustain an image of a perpetually rotating striped panel, a dizzying, twirling band whose rate of speed appears warped by simultaneous strobes.

Crawford, a recent MFA graduate of the Art Center College of Design, practices a highly schooled, self-conscious sort of chest-thumping in this piece, titled (with consistent insistence) “POSSIBILITIESOFFISTS.” It’s all about modes of manipulation (commercial, theatrical, musical, optical) layered to an absurd extreme — all means and no end. Dense and daunting, but at the same time coyly tongue-in-cheek, the installation’s mishmash of not-so-special effects piles together to make for an amusing self-parody.

-- Leah Ollman

Sister, 955 Chung King Road, Chinatown, (213) 628-7000, through June 13. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Above: Installation view of “POSSIBILITIESOFFISTS.” Credit: Sister