New York Times
New York Region
November 24, 2002, Sunday

Looking at Those Images, Again and Again

STONY BROOK -- WHEN it comes to ambitious, attention-getting names, it will be hard to beat ''Queer Visualities: Reframing Sexuality in a Post-Warhol World,'' the title of a lively, diverse and often beguiling exhibition at the Stony Brook University Art Gallery. The project coincides with an international conference, ''Queer Visualities,'' sponsored by the university earlier this month.

Concentrating on 12 contemporary artists, the exhibition re-sorts and re-weaves the buzz words of its title, ultimately delivering a broad message about the constant mental reframing of visual material in general. Contexts change, and so do attitudes toward images and what they represent.

A few works with clear links to history and to the tradition of reusing images clarify where the show wants to go. Warhol's borrowing of a documentary news photograph; Komar & Melamid's replicas of Lenin statuettes, and Deborah Kass's remaking of her own mug shot as a takeoff on a famous Warhol piece are all examples of multiple reframings. Patricia Cronin's redo of a romantic Victorian plaster relief and Alejandro Diaz's reconsideration of a Jackson Pollock painting as a soft and lush glittery surface are other approaches. It is part of the show's message, too, that works referring to sexual or gender issues, like the several selections by Ms. Kass, and the works by Ms. Cronin and Mr. Diaz, blend in as part of the norm.

The two largest and most memorable pieces are wonderful examples of reinterpreting familiar things.

''High Yellow: Long Island,'' a sensuously handsome multimedia installation by Franco Mondini-Ruiz, transforms hundreds of trinkets and candies into pristine white-coated shapes in an obsessively formal design, simulating an elegant, feastlike display of edibles that are inaccessible as nourishment.

Rudy Lemcke uses a resonating golden backdrop for ''The Uninvited,'' a poignant video installation that captures his mesmerizing orchestration of sinuous, morphing silhouettes cast by Vietnamese shadow puppets. A meditative, haunting text establishes memory as a component of this work. Further layers of reframing occur as the projection equipment adds shadows of gallery visitors to the forms on the illuminated wall. The feeling is part psychotic state, part real world.

The show's extensive reach brings in pieces that have a political edge too. For example, Steed Taylor offers an introspective comment on AIDS by erasing himself from photographs that record commonplace childhood moments.

In another effective instance of introspection driving the adjustment and reconsideration of images, a wall installation by Chitra Ganesh interlaces lettered text, cutouts and fragments of everyday objects into random configurations that seem to parallel the trajectory of a churning mind going in and out of focus.

Facial depictions are another aspect of the exhibition's multifaceted direction. Joe Heidecker devises covers, occasionally with beads, to mask the features on found photographs, making a point about the power to change and manipulate the identity of others. Paintings by Scott Lifshutz suggest that grinning expressions are a barrier to full understanding.

Queer visualities? Perhaps to the extent that queer is sometimes defined as droll, or humorously odd. But then, artists always do things that are other than ordinary, and that is precisely why art has the potential to take us to another place.

''Queer Visualities'' is at the Stony Brook University Art Gallery, Staller Center, Stony Brook, through Dec. 7. Information: (631) 632-7240. On-line

Published: 11 - 24 - 2002 , Late Edition - Final , Section 14LI , Column 1 , Page 20

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