The Drawing Lesson
On Stellar Rays is pleased to present two new videos by Alix Pearlstein, The Drawing Lesson and Moves in the Field, in the artist’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. A third related video, Light, will be on view in the gallery office. In her new work, Pearlstein exploits acts of spectatorship among individuals, isolating a dialectical engagement of movement, observation and reception.
Moves in the Field refers to elements of figure skating that emphasize basic skills and edge control, or more broadly, a set of progressively difficult skill tests. Working with a group of actors, Pearlstein employs a similar approach. By means of a finite set of instructions, she directs schematic interactions to highlight the moments when the psychological and the spatial overlap. The anti-spectacular situation, seemingly devoid of narrative or contextual cues, activates a range of potential scenarios ubiquitous to the intake of cultural media.
As in Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin’s L’Etude du Dessin (1734), Pearlstein’s eponomously-titled video exploits a succession of gazes in a sparse room to delineate shifting roles between observer and observed. In one scene the camera circles a pair of seated figures each directly facing the other. Their attention soon shifts to closely follow the camera’s eye. Subsequent scenes enact a relay of exchanging positions between three, then four figures. Through each configuration actors observe the same pattern, alternately shifting their gaze to regard each other or the camera as it repeatedly draws circles around the group tableaux.
Though legacies of minimalism and postmodern dance are often a pretext for Pearlstein’s work, at the core she exploits their antithetical ruse - an intentional self-consciousness and psychological pressure towards generating an affective relationship between camera, viewer and subject. Ultimately a form of raw humanism prevails over the sort of scrutiny and invasiveness that exists in much current contemporary media.
Alix Pearlstein’s work in video and performance has been widely exhibited internationally. In January 2013, the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center will present a solo exhibition featuring a newly commissioned work. Other selected solo exhibitions include On Stellar Rays, New York, NY; the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, MO; The Kitchen, New York, NY; MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA; Lugar Commun, Lisbon, Portugal; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; The Museum School of Fine Arts, Boston, MA. Performances have been seen at The Park Avenue Armory, Esopus Space and Salon 94, New York, NY. Her works have been included in exhibitions at Internationale d’Art de Québec, Canada; The Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, Israel; Annual Exhibition of Visual Art, Ireland; BAM / PFA, Berkeley, CA; SMAK, Ghent, Belgium; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; ICA Philadelphia, PA; Biennale de Lyon, France; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. She is a recipient of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts 2011 Grants to Artists Award. Pearlstein lives in New York.