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Review: 'Video Journeys' at Sister Gallery at Cottage Home*

June 19, 2009 | 11:00 am

Grinnan Murata 4 “Video Journeys,” at Sister Gallery at Cottage Home, comes to the perennially problematic issue of video art installation from an appealingly common-sense angle, putting 10 video works in the hands of as many sculptors, with the only instruction being to provide some sort of presentation.

The results are diverse and consistently intriguing, if generally impractical as exhibition design. If the first rule of good curating is to avoid competing with or detracting from the work you’re presenting, most of these endeavors fall well short. But this is curating via collaboration, and the entanglement of sensibilities proves far more interesting, in the end, than the integrity of the video in its own right.

Several of the pairings are symbiotic enough to give the impression of having been conceived as a single work. Takeshi Murata’s colorful, largely abstract video “Monster Movie” plays atop a 9-foot Plexiglas tower by Katie Grinnan that is emblazoned with digitally collaged inkjet prints of Las Vegas architecture. Cal Crawford’s “second-rate bitterness,” which involves a tensely pulsating black-and-white bull’s-eye pattern, plays on a boxy, black monitor that Justin Beal has set on a pedestal and snugly wrapped in clear plastic, augmenting its taut, slightly crazed intensity.

In others, the correlation is looser but cooperative.

The grubby carpet-and-linoleum shell that Ry Rocklen has concocted for Paul Slocum’s video “Kurt” echoes the gritty spirit of the video’s rock star namesake, much as Kathryn Andrews’ goofy paw print flags and screens extend the weird hamminess of Michele O’Marah’s “White Diamonds/Agent Orange,” a two-channel piece pairing reenactments of Vietnam-era battle scenes with that of a 1970 Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton interview. *[UPDATED: A previous version of this review misspelled the first name of Kathryn Andrews as Katherine.]

The most clever, perhaps, is the most seemingly straightforward: Eric Wesley’s presentation of Paul Pfeiffer’s unsettlingly fervent “Sex Machine” on an ordinary burned DVD in a clear plastic jewel case, with the title handwritten across the disc and “For Viewing Purposes Only” stamped across the image when played. The disc is offered to visitors for free at the front desk and points to a fact often elided in a fine art context: Video remains, for the most part, a private, domestic medium that found its fullest expression, at least economically, as a conduit for porn.

-- Holly Myers

Sister at Cottage Home, 410 Cottage Home St., L.A., (323) 276-1205, through June 27. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Above: Takeshi Murata’s video “Monster Movie” plays atop a 9-foot Plexiglas tower by Katie Grinnan. Credit: Sister Gallery at Cottage Home