Dunn and Brown Contemporary, Dallas
Through May 14
by Charissa Terranova
Brian Fridge’s latest engagement with low-tech video and abstraction at Dunn and Brown Contemporary, Sequence 36.0, is all about growth and form. Two moving-image pieces occupy the Project Gallery, Sequence 36.3-35.5 (2010) on a small monitor hung on a freestanding wall and Sequence 36.1 (2010) projected in large format on the wall of the adjacent gallery. The two distinct black and white videos show leafy tendrils that slowly grow out in spokes from a drain-like hole at the center of the screen. Separated by space and scale, their relationship is not so much one of mimesis and repetition but refraction, with the little one on the monitor seeming like a blasted bit shot through an invisible prism connected to the large projection on the wall one room over. The differences between the two video installations are minimal but significant.
There is confusion here as to whether this is video art or a video installation. If there were two videos showing the same exact imagery each in sync with the other, this would be a project about video art as armature and installation. It would simulate the pyrotechnics of full-body stimulation— a body roving through space looking at video. Since each shows a slightly different version of the “sequence,” then we can deduce that these videos focus on the mesmerizing abstract organic floral fungus form at the center of each unique looped piece. This is video about seeing content— what is inside the frame— first, and affect and self-reflexivity second. The greatest power of this show is in the way it feels like an installation, if only accidentally— the way the two videos interrelate when seen simultaneously from the corner of the room.
In terms of content, we might look to Fridge’s recent explorations in physics, metaphysics and biological forms. In keeping with his studies, the work in Sequence 36.0 brings to mind Scottish biologist and classics scholar D’Arcy Thompson’s 1917 book On Growth and Form. An atypical tome, On Growth and Form is a long, descriptive and non-linear study of biological form and change according to mathematical principles rather than Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Over 1,000 pages long, the book has copious images, many of which are similar to Fridge’s mutating plant-like form.
A Whitney Biennial artist in 2000, Fridge is now famous for concocting hypnotic abstractions in motion, the most celebrated of which was Vault Sequence (1995), a galactic tornado of rotating white particles that were actually the workings of his freezer as it defrosted. As with this seminal piece, there are many potentialities within Fridge’s new work, the linchpin of which hinges on how they are installed. The current installation of Fridge’s video is extremely powerful because they are both visible at once. Installed singly, each in its own space, the works would come across differently— less rhythmic, more subtle and more a kindred spirit of the precedential non-objective experiments of 20th-century modernism.
Charissa N. Terranova is Assistant Professor of Aesthetic Studies at The University of Texas at Dallas. A freelance curator and scholarly critic, she has recently completed a book-length manuscript entitled Automotive Prosthetic: The Car, Technological Mediation, and the Conceptual Turn in Art, 1951-Present.