Two-Dimensional History and a Bunch of Show Offs

Kota Ezawa revisits historical touchstones.

Kota Ezawa's exhibition at Artpace's Hudson (Show)Room reconfirms that our 21st-century human form is changing. While our pinky fingers haven't dropped off yet (I'm typing with them right now) and our bodies haven't shrunk in proportion to our heads, popular culture seems to be streamlining us into smoothly animated forms that smack of futurism. Take, for example, the recent film A Scanner Darkly, with its morphing of actors with rotoscope-like technology to create an odd, nearly animated human being.

Ezawa's work is similarly based in computer manipulation but retains a sweet, paper-andscissors sensibility. He walks us through a history of photography while turning iconic images into flat, colorform "paintings" that leave out shadowy contrasts and vintage photographic printing in favor of simple shapes. In this way, Ezawa can present bank hold-ups, crime scenes, and the Earth as seen from the Moon with equal flat neutrality.

Although he transforms famous photographs into something more akin to painting or comics, Ezawa chooses images that are about photography as a medium. Whether it's Patty Hearst in "Hibernia Bank Robbery" (2005) as seen by a security camera, or controversial German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, the photographs are always self-referential. Ezawa's "Leap into the Void" (2005) adds a fresh layer of image manipulation to an already-doctored photo. It zooms in on Yves Klein and Harry Shunk's famous 1960 photograph of Klein leaping off a building into the street. The original image was manipulated to remove the source of his soft landing, leaving only pavement behind to create a terrifying, but false, reality.

The best works in this exhibition are short films, particularly "The Simpson Verdict" (2002), which shows three minutes of courtroom drama as O.J. Simpson receives his controversial license to golf. Participants move with herky-jerky movements, making emotions of relief and shock more pronounced. Similarly, "Lennon Sontag Beuys" (2004) projects side-by-side films of the artists and writers who turned their celebrity status into political activism and shamanism, and their new, cartoon- like images are still strangely alluring.

The question arises: Are the strengths of these images diluted by their treatment? Has Ezawa's slide show "The History of Photography Remix" (2005) turned its subject into a series of cute historical flashcards? I rather think so, and by re-presenting them this way, Ezawa borders on implying that photography itself is too dull for a computer age in love with graphic novels and South Park cartoons. Despite this, I like Ezawa's work.

In another part of the city, Unit B's Show Offs pays homage to the unsung heroes of San Antonio's independent art spaces. The packed house of artists includes Andy Benevides (one9zero6), Ben Judson (Salon Mijangos), Anjali Gupta (CAM), and Jayne Lawrence and Leigh Anne Lester (Cactus Bra). Robert Tatum (CAM) strung his prints on the clothesline and Gary Smith's (i2i Gallery) PVC-pipe tree, installed next to the flower-lined sidewalk, is a perfect welcome before entering the apartment gallery. Luz Maria Sanchez's (Triangle Project Space) bullhorns play a rare recording of Gertrude Stein reading from "The Making of Americans," which may be the savviest way of approaching the immigration issue I've seen. Particularly since Stein relocated to France and never learned the language.

As in any group show, there are a broad mix of works and this is really a stroll through personalities that shows why each of the independent art spaces has its own aesthetic. Hills Snyder's (Sala Diaz) Plexiglas-and-birch ladder leans in the corner of the gallery. A striking and reflective jewel-green on its surface, "Ambassador" (1998) is a shrunken version of a tool for elevation that makes surprisingly perfect sense. It reminds me of Einstein's Theory of Relativity, which says we shrink when approaching the speed of light, making us small enough to slip through a drain - just the kind of invisible magic that makes me think of Snyder's work. Michele Monseau's video "Long Road (Points A, B, and C)" (2006) draws you in despite minimal action, and I couldn't help but appreciate Dayna DeHoyos's funky tree branch chandelier, which sparkles at night.


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