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Laurel Nakadate flirts with danger in string bikini at the Standard Hotel

February 17, 2011 |  9:00 am

Laurel Nakadate's recent videos are suggestive enough to bring out some stern maternal instincts in just about any viewer. Couldn't you cover up with a sweater or something? Don't look at him that way. Don't you have some homework to do?

So it might be reassuring to know that Nakadate, a young-looking 35, is a video artist and photographer who has followed her exhibitionist impulses all the way to a major museum survey ("Only the Lonely," now at PS1 in New York). But watching her rub up against erotic content in her Standard Hotel video program, now on view in the lobbies of both the downtown and Sunset Strip locations in L.A., is still likely to trigger bouts of feminist empathy, male lust or both.

In her best-known series, Nakadate turned her camera on lonely men -- typically strangers who tried to pick her up on the street. She went home with them and asked them to do socially awkward, pseudo-intimate things like dance with her to Britney Spears or throw her a birthday party. In Artforum, critic Jeffrey Kastner recently called her work "dangerously smart, dangerously bold (and frequently just plain dangerous)."

In the three short videos now running on a loop at the Standard, Nakadate also rides the line between sexual hunter and hunted. In each piece, she dances suggestively (Spears is still a muse) to music in a different getup -- such as a string bikini decorated with stars and stripes for a piece set against fireworks. There are no men visible in the frame, but she focuses her charms on the camera, leaning in for close-ups like a YouTube hopeful auditioning for some lurid sort of fame.

Two of these three videos appear in Nakadate's survey at PS1, where the seriousness of the museum context and the arc of her career frames them as more thought-provoking than the usual MTV fare. But the Standard's presentation, co-organized by New York's Art Production Fund, opens up another possibility: hotel guests returning to their rooms after a a drink or two, let alone a night out clubbing, might not see the work as art, or really see it at all.

Katy Perry made a famous "Firework" video of her own last year, and Britney Spears' videos are a clear influence here. Will Nakadate's work at the Standard stand out from the crowd somehow or slip back into the pop-culture matrix that inspired it?

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-- Jori Finkel

Image: a still image from "Exorcism 3 (Dancing in the Desert for Britney)," 2009; 6 minutes, 40 seconds. Credit: Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York