Time Out New York / Jan 29–Feb 4, 2009

“Every Revolution is a Roll of the Dice”

Curator Bob Nickas’s group exhibition (his fourth at Paula Cooper) is an outwardly elegant affair haunted by the specter of conflict. “Every Revolution…” responds to current uncertainties via a reference to the 1871 Paris Commune, formed—then brutally quashed—following France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. A 1978 film shot near the graves of the communards, based on Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem “Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard” (a roll of the dice will never abolish chance), provides the title for this predictably intelligent show, which evinces a distinctly embattled feel. Louise Lawler’s Once There Was a Little Boy and Everything Turned Out Alright. The End (1993), a wall text that serves as introduction, alerts us to the dominant sensibility: post-Pop gamesmanship fortified by a bitter shot of snark.

Other works direct a similarly confrontational glare at the military-industrial machine. Wayne Gonzales’s painted enlargement of a photo from the internet depicting flag-draped coffins exploits a technical twist to restore the horror to a numbingly familiar image, while the shift from red, white and blue to steely gray and black in Gardar Eide Einarsson’s Shield (Graphite) hints at the dark realities underpinning Captain America’s “patriotic” defense. Elsewhere, violence becomes explicit: In Joan Wallace’s videos, a crimson-centered cake gets shot to pieces in slo-mo, while in Kelley Walker’s sculpture, two shattered sticker-covered car windshields are surrounded by a halo of glass shards that crunches unnervingly underfoot. Risk, Nickas seems to suggest, is forever timely, even when no end is in sight.

Image: Wayne Gozales, Untitled, 2007