Whitney Museum of American Art
845 Madison Avenue at 75th Street
212 570 3676
December 13, 2001 – February 24, 2002
In the old-dog, technology-laden realm of contemporary art, new tricks are often hard to find. Galleries too often become darkened white cubes for the presentation of video art desperately trying unsuccessfully to provide the spectacle of cinematic experience usually sans any element of narrative. In the long run, much new video art looks like a clean, polished version of the groundbreaking video works of the late 1960s and early 1970s by the likes of Vito Acconci, William Wegman, and Bruce Nauman. Paul Pfeifffer, is not one of those copy-cats. The inaugural recipient of the Whitney Biennial’s Bucksbaum Award in 2000, Pfeiffer takes the history of video art and the history of images to make innovative video works, a new selection of which will be presented at the Whitney Museum in December, a rare treat for a young artist.
While sculptors have long been concerned with the evidence of things unseen, new digital technology has been the impetus for imagists like Pfeiffer. Meticulously crafting video from the global archive of historic, moving images, Pfeiffer has created a body of work that resonates presciently with our present. His images of sports figures in particular and American pop culture in general examine the power of mediated imagery in a consumer driven society by taking iconic images of heroes and events, shedding light on issues such as race and subjectivity. This exhibition premieres two new videos, The Long Count and Race Riot.
The Long Count is a video triptych based on Muhammad Ali’s legendary fights against Sonny Liston in the United States, George Foreman in Zaire, and Joe Frazier in the Phillipines. Taking his signature style of removing the key figures from these events, the figures of the boxers and the referee are merely wisps of pixilated digital information. What we are left with is the spectacle created by the looped image of the cheering crowd. Visually, Pfeiffer offers up art worthy of a spectacle.