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Greg Sholette and Monika Bravo at Santa Fe Art Institute

As part of SFAI’s seasonal program, Half Life: Patterns of Change, Greg Sholette and Monika Bravo exhibit two works each in contrasting modes; Sholette works a didactic satirical vein while Bravo shows a lyrical streak. Any visible commonality might lie in the haunting quality of disembodied human presence, but presumably the work fulfills SFAI’s larger mission of promoting art as positive social force, as well as the self-described intention underlying Half-Life, of addressing such questions as “How do systems age, decline, and regenerate? How can we use the artistic and creative process to make those regenerative and restorative actions sustainable, inclusive, and effective?”

Monika Bravo’s projected video, Breathing Wall, 2010, is a lush and rhythmic experiment with time. Footage captured in mundane urban environments, of people working, walking, architecture and signage has been transformed digitally through the use of multiple screens, overlay and other effects so that it folds, reflects, fractures and mesmerizes. This woven kinetic abstraction recalls the dawn of self-consciously modern cinema in Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera. Only now our camera knows even fewer bounds. Bravo’s piece is a lullaby for us bionic babies. Barcodes become mandalas…. Viewers may be reminded of Sarah Morris’ Capital (2000) and Josephine Meckseper’s Mall of America (2009) that also have a cold-sexy capitalism-in-decay glamor.

Bravo’s other piece, La Ilaha Il Allah, Part I, II, III, IV, shown on two adjacent monitors, is composed of appropriated internet footage depicting natural disasters that has been reworked in to give a painterly, or rather, blurry feel. The artist finds “that these images are endowed with the most compelling beauty eerily calling for an immediate awareness of how fragile the ecosystem is”, but in this case, the work itself may be too fragile, too vague, to compel awareness.

Greg Sholette’s installation, Return of the Atomic Ghosts,2001-2011, merges Hans Haacke style critique with low budget conspiratorial expose, to take aim at the biggest bogeyman of them all, the US government. The style of the piece is intentionally business-bland PowerPoint, but undercut by a parodic text and unlikely photoshopped images, such as the one conjuring the appearance of Nixon in a grande latte. Pages of the faux document are pinned to the wall sequentially along a painted orange stripe. The general idea of regular USA, that is, Starbucks, Walmart, McDonald’s, ipods, being haunted by cold warrior spooks and their victims remains only potentially amusing and effective. There is an earlier video version of the piece patched together from stills in cheap documentary fashion, installed in a room to the side. Would the transgenic pumpkin or the glowing pineapples engraved with faces, actually spook, or provoke a laugh.

Monika Bravo will present a lecture entitled Process and Intuition on Tuesday October 11, 6pm at Tipton Hall on the SFAI campus. She will talk about her work and her ideas of perception, (in)tangibility, and illusion and how they shape our minds. October 8 and 9 she will lead a workshop.

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