Far From the Madding Crowd
By Barry Neuman
March 20, 2003 | Boiler Mag

At the end of a long "weekend" of rigorously indulging oneself in the viewing of art at both the Armory Show 2003, on Piers 88 and 90, and -Scope New York, at the Dylan Hotel, one was able to enjoy a respite at two particular events.

The first was a video monitor screening of the 1970 silent, color, Super 8 film, "Joseph Beuys In Scotland," by Rory McEwen, at the McAllister Institute, on Sunday, March 9th. The second was "Miele," a solo exhibition of color photographs and a concurrent video projection screening of a black-and-white film by Sara Rossi at the Italian Academy At Columbia University, on Monday, March 10th. The contemplative nature of the works presented at each of these events made it possible for one to decelerate and to experience the presence of extraordinary phenomena taking place at exceptional moments.

The occasion at the McAllister Institute marked only the third time that "Joseph Beuys In Scotland" has ever been screened. As Adam McEwen, the grown son of Rory McEwen, the late Scottish artist known primarily for his watercolor-on-vellum paintings of botanical subjects, stood off to the side and intermittently narrated the film to a small group of British, German, and American artists, filmmakers, writers, curators, and art dealers, one was drawn into this compelling journey of Joseph Beuys, being transported in a white Mercedes Benz in the summer rain and on the roads running through small, traditional Scottish towns and thehighways cutting through the verdant Scottish landscape. Beuys' gray felt hat was distinctly visible through his car's rear-view window from the perspective of the filmmaker, who was shooting through the windshield of a moving car from a distance of about five car-lengths back.

The occasional view of Beuys' young children reminded one that this was, indeed, a summer excursion. On enchanted journeys and under cloudy Scottish skies, even this is possible.

At a sudden moment in the film, Beuys, in his white fisherman's vest, emerged from his car and directly made his way through the pasture, investigating its features and, then, revealing in his open hand a roughly textured blob of gelatin. Cutting at its surface with a great a sense of purpose, he grasped the gelatinous mass; it resembled a large heart, virtually pulsating and alive in his hand, extended out amidst the green Scottish landscape. A still life of a smear of white lard on a flat gray stone resting on the green grass appeared just as suddenly, and the film concluded. "Joseph Beuys In Action" is a work that makes it possible to experience modern-day alchemy.

"Miele" ("Honey"), by Sara Rossi, presented at the Italian Academy At Columbia University, was the second in an ongoing series of solo exhibitions of works by winners of the Premio New York, a residency grant awarded to two young Italian artists of distinction per semester. (The Premio New York's inaugural exhibition--of works by Chiara, the Rome-based photography and mixed media artist--took place in December. Marta Dell'Angelo, the Milan-based painter and video artist, and Matteo Basile, the Rome-based photography and video artist, are the current Premio New York artists-in-residence.)

"Miele" consists of 40 sensitively conceived and produced, small-scale color photographs that are exquisitely mounted on slender planes of aluminum. Each of Rossi's works honors the act of looking--observing places and objects that reside in the real world and inhabit the domains of the memory and the dream world. Rocky springtime landscapes in Tuscany; sequences of images of a silent film intertitle, a film still of Buster Keaton, and an eccentric object; a composition depicting a young lady in a patterned dress, lazily lying on the floor and framed by the long legs of a dog-in-motion under cloudy gray natural daylight are examples of the precious, little tableaux created by Rossi.

In the elegant and spacious, second-floor Teatro, "The Hour Glass" was on view. Framed by plush, velvet theater curtains, this 45-minute black-and-white motion picture shot in Super 8 depicts with great reverence for cinematic tradition an hourglass, as its sand is running down. Like the snow globe seen at the outset of Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane," Rossi's hourglass is a filmic icon. Appearing somewhat above the audience's eye-level and before a backdrop of stately, striped wallpaper and reflecting tall, Old World balcony windows, this beacon-like hourglass is portrayed in a grainy haze. It evokes the world of the silent film drama or, rather, the mid-20th Century works that pay tribute to it. Like the Francois Truffaut film, "Two English Girls," "The Hour Glass" leaves one longing for a time that precedes one's lifetime in a highly personal way. There is a graceful resonance between the graininess of the film and the grains of sand (or, rather, the idea of the falling grains of sand, as the details of this action is barely perceptible). Likewise, there exists a satisfying counterbalance to the visual spectacle of this film in its soundtrack, consisting of the rhythmic sounds of mechanical clock movements.

Indeed, one looks forward to New York's annual celebration of contemporary art on the Hudson River piers. Nevertheless, it remains a real pleasure to encounter oases that complement all of the excitement and the hustle and bustle.