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Review: Image Transfer: Pictures in a Remix Culture

D. Eric Bookhardt on a group exhibition revisiting postmodern theory and art


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Did postmodernism kill New York art? Clearly something did because very little of consequence has originated there for more than 20 years. Anyone looking for a culprit need look no further than the Regarding Warhol show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, featuring work by the maestro himself as well as the many wannabe clones who followed in his wake. And while early Warhol was great, it was mostly his later stuff that set the tone for what came next, the postmodern pop progeny that ranged from moderately brilliant talents like Cindy Sherman to such egregiously over-hyped hucksters as Jeff Koons, Richard Prince and all the rest who turned the New York scene into a pretentious extension of Wall Street. So it was only fitting that the most incisive review of the show appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek where critic Lance Esplund opined, "I suggest you skip it. This cramped, predictable, ho-hum exhibition... is a celebration of the artist as opportunist." Ouch. How did postmodernism, a movement with roots in Marxist critical theory, end up as the very thing it was supposed to critique?

  That is a long and sad story, but suffice it to say that not all postmodern artists obsessed with mass media so shamelessly sold out, and this Image Transfer expo at Newcomb is proof they still exist. While not all is thrall-inducing, much of the work is interesting in the way the artifacts of any lost tribe can be interesting. So here we have convoluted tropes like Karl Haendel's large, dazzlingly realistic pencil drawings of Maltese Falcon film stills and Man Ray-style photo-abstractions (pictured); and Sean Dack's digital images transformed by technical tweaks into neo-cubist compositions like Glitch Girl, or Sara VanDerBeek's Four Photographers series of digital remixes of work by great photographers from the art historical past. Curated in Seattle, Image Transfer substitutes sobriety for flash, but what it and the Met's post-Warhol show have in common is a cutting edge sensibility — from 20 years ago.



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