The New York Times

Art in Review

Friday, March 24, 2000

 

Jesse Lopez/ Tracey Rose

The Project
427 West 126th Street, Harlem
Through April 2

The two young artists whose New York Debuts are Inaugurating Christian Haye’s new gallery space, the Project, take opposite approaches to cultural and personal identity, with results that have nearly complementary strengths and weaknesses.

Jesse Lopez, a 30-year-old artist born in San Antonio and educated at the San Antonio Art Institute and Cranbrook Academy, is showing large graphite drawings that have technical finesse to burn but a mixture of realistic styles and fragmentary motifs that often seems generic. In a vocabulary of fine lines and dense cross-hatchings whose clarity approaches old master woodcuts, Mr. Lopez renders disembodied hands, rag dolls and thorns in combinations that at their best conjure up both ancient ritual and contemporary performance art. But for the most part, it is more interesting to think about how these images came to be than what they might mean.

Tracey Rose, a 25-year-old South African artist from Johannesburg, presents two modest DVD projection pieces that suggest an artist who knows more about what she wants to say than how. “Sticks and Stones,”a single strand of white type on black projected on the wall might be almost as impressive on the printed page. As it files past, this 13-minute string of sentences evocatively conjures up the maze-like structure of race and class distinctions that is post-apartheid South Africa – and it does so entirely in terms of vivid childhood memories, told with a child’s matter-of-fact brevity.

“Onyetiteld,” an eight-minute looped work from 1997 displayed on a small monitor, is less engrossing. Shot from above as if by a surveillance camera, it shows a young black woman standing naked in a small bathroom, systematically shaving the hair from her head, underarms and crotch and letting it pile up around her feet. As she steps away, it is not clear id one has witnessed an act of transformation or negation, of liberation or sacrifice. Mostly, one senses a potentially rich narrative and an artist who is still exploring how best to tell it.

ROBERTA SMITH


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