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Art review: Mannis at Thomas Solomon

January 21, 2010 | 12:00 pm

Mannis A sparse but maddeningly enticing solo debut by Josh Mannis is anchored by "Variation," a digitally manipulated video that turns Pop whimsy into something bordering on diabolical. The repetitions start off playful, but as the unending loop continues you begin to understand why the man doing a calisthenics-dance on the TV screen appears to have blood rather than sweat running down his masked face.

Like Joan Jonas, whose 1972 "Vertical Roll" is a classic of early video art, Mannis begins with the relentless repetition of forms that mass media demands. An all-American man dressed in red, white and blue does an energetic series of choreographed movements to a percussive soundtrack.

Digitally multiplied, he maintains his high level of energy as a viewer gets steadily more exhausted just by watching. Jonas banged on the floor with a spoon as the image flipped, italicizing the structural deformity television exerts on perception; Mannis performs like a man endlessly running in a futile effort to catch up. It's very now.

The show also includes two works on paper and a nominal painting, made from floral-printed polyester stretched on a pair of diamond-shaped canvases. The floral pattern is identical on each side, but the stretching is slightly askew. Your mind tries hard to reconcile the small but mounting discrepancies between the side-by-side compositions, but it just won't coalesce. That's very now as well.

– Christopher Knight

Thomas Solomon Gallery, 427 Bernard St., Chinatown, (323) 275-1687, through Feb. 13. Closed Sunday through  Tuesday. www.thomassolomongallery.com

Image: Variations. Courtesy of Thomas Solomon Gallery.

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