The Unforgiving Minute
Derek Eller Gallery is pleased to present new drawings, sculpture, and video by D-L Alvarez.
1955: Blackboard Jungle premieres featuring a 27 year old Sidney Poitier as Miller, a boy wary of authority. The film evidences Cold War paranoia about juvenile delinquency.
1967: To Sir, With Love premieres with Sidney Poitier as Mark Thackeray, a first-year teacher working to subdue rowdy students. The film addresses issues of race and anti-social behavior.
Of all the things the two films have in common (plot, character types, pivotal scenes, target audience, marketing, etc.), it is Poitier's position that separates them as two distinct works. In the mid-Fifties he's a teenage tuff, but nearing the end of the Sixties he's the soft-spoken instructor from British Guiana. This "promotion" had everything to do with the twelve-year gap.
The centerpiece of this exhibition is a split-screen video installation entitled The Visitor Owl. Alvarez approached San Francisco author Kevin Killian—a key figure in San Francisco Poets Theater—to re-script the two seminal films. The resulting work offers a camp reading-between-the-lines of 1955 and 1967.
Alvarez's exquisitely rendered works on paper likewise illustrate scenes from high school. However, these images are generic and abstracted—information is subtracted or collaged over with strips cut from vintage textbooks. Formalist concerns trump content. This mimics a Hollywood-logic where history is poured into the mold of a genre. Genre films—in this case, the Inspirational Teacher genre—reveal more about how to apply a format than about their historical subjects.
Timelines are circular and mixed through with fact and fiction. The various parts of The Unforgiving Minute are either moments in a timeline, or timelines themselves, all intersecting.
D-L Alvarez lives and works presently in Oakland, California. Last year at the Berkeley Art Museum he mounted his first museum solo exhibition, and a version of The Visitor Owl was presented with live actors and video projection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He has also shown recently at The DePaul Art Museum, CCS Bard Library and Archives, and The Drawing Center, and is a recipient of the 2013 Artadia Award. The Unforgiving Minute is his sixth solo-exhibition with the gallery.