Art Seen: National

JORDAN WOLFSON // DAVID ZWIRNER

by Stephanie Cristello

“Every night I rush to my bed with hopes that maybe I’ll get a chance to see you when I close my eyes[1]

“I want to hold the hand inside you
I want to take a breath that’s true[2]

You start at the edge of a long hallway, placing one foot in front of the other on the white-carpeted entrance, your steps metered, and slow, and sweet. The perfect song plays in the distance, the kind that you heard at a slow dance when you were twelve and thirteen, when the girls wore ice blue velvet dresses with their hair pinned back on either side with butterfly clips, and frosted lip-gloss, and the boys’ hair was almost just as long, parted down the middle. You continue down the hallway though you do not know where it leads – but you know that this soundtrack is just for you, as if the sequence is announcing your own personal entrance. This is a place for the softhearted anarchists, a slow dance for the inescapably adolescent. Mazzy Star’s Fade Into You, carries the type of magic necessary to make each listener believe they were in their own film; the qualities of the music itself is nostalgic and unexpected, scoring the moments that we imagine as belonging to part of our larger cinematic experience.

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Jordan Wolfson, Raspberry Poser, 2012. Projected video animation, 13:54 min (loop), color, sound. Dimensions vary with installation. Courtesy the artist, David Zwirner, New York, and Sadie Coles HQ, London

But this is not our dream, and this is not our movie. The romance and allure of the building sensation established by Jordan Wolfson’s film Raspberry Poser, currently on view at David Zwirner, is not fed – but satisfied in ways that match the fantasy of what exists beyond the wall. Fantasy here is never tame, but swings instead between the exceptionally restrained and excessively filled – always extreme, always on the edge of control. Few things can prepare viewers for the experience of this incredibly infectious film that continues to haunt viewers long after its viewing.

The film occupies the large gallery beyond the hallway, projected from floor to ceiling on a massive screen, the carpet extending to the edges of the space. Wolfson’s aesthetic of ‘90s counterculture is met with moments of tenacious, yet collected menace – a deranged image of contemporary romance. Scenes of the artist himself, shot as a skinhead in Paris, are abruptly spliced with the picturesque and conservative perfection of interior design sets, like navigating a Pottery Barn and Ikea catalogue in real time and space. Animated characters interact with the static backgrounds of almost every scene, such as a little girl’s bedroom filled with stuffed animals, a sleek minimalist kitchen set, or pedestrian New York crosswalk. The animations are recurring imagery for Wolfson; a condom filled with bright red hearts drifts on top of various surroundings, sexually charged yet indolently floating on the surface, and small animate balls bounce on the screen in a way that responds to the architecture, without features but not without personality.

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Jordan Wolfson, Raspberry Poser, 2012. Projected video animation, 13:54 min (loop), color, sound. Dimensions vary with installation. Courtesy the artist, David Zwirner, New York, and Sadie Coles HQ, London

These interludes recur throughout the footage, but it is a nameless protagonist that resembles the illustration style of Calvin that drives the entire film. Despite the caricature’s many appearances throughout the film, the apparition is always unexpected, at once smug and predatory – an embodiment of mischief. In some scenes, he reclines in the middle of the screen on an invisible surface regardless of the surroundings, and stares out into the audience, calmly reaching for a knife behind his back, and steadily slicing open his abdomen. Organs jump out, a kidney animatedly hops around, a heart rolls over and out, intestines slowly spill – all the while blood pools. The event would be hysterical if it weren’t so serious and severe. In other sequences the boy jumps out wide armed and wide legged, grinning wide, while twinkling his fingers. The camera performs a series of repetitive jump cuts onto the figure, as if slicing him into parts – from a close up of his grin, to a twinkling hand, to his mid section clothed with a striped shirt, to his foot. A cartoon overlay of blood drips from the top of the screen, coating everything in its piercing red hue – the boy smiles through the veil of crimson.

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Jordan Wolfson, Raspberry Poser, 2012. Projected video animation, 13:54 min (loop), color, sound. Dimensions vary with installation. Courtesy the artist, David Zwirner, New York, and Sadie Coles HQ, London

The flatness of all the animations in relation to their various sets are unapologetically perverse – threatening, intimidating, and interloping. Though, Wolfson’s proposal is not moral (there is an overwhelming but implacable feeling of badness throughout), but how this particular affect of naughtiness operates when everything is perverse. Wolfson navigates this boundary between the wicked and the mundane. The two songs selected for the score are very appropriate in this regard, Sweet Dreams by Beyoncé plays in two registers, one at normal speed and the other at half pace, so that it sounds like a male voice, in addition to Fade Into You, both becoming more and more strange within the context of the moving image. While the music carries the initial affect of a filmic love song or a nightclub, it has an urgency that can only belong to an obsessive love – a stalker, not a slow dance. Wolfson forms the underside of romance. Between innocence and horror, Raspberry Poser states its case – adopting the traits of ‘90s sentimentality at the same time it amplifies its naïve devotion to a nightmare pitch.

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Jordan Wolfson, Raspberry Poser, 2012. Projected video animation, 13:54 min (loop), color, sound. Dimensions vary with installation. Courtesy the artist, David Zwirner, New York, and Sadie Coles HQ, London




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Jordan Wolfson at David Zwirner runs through April 19, 2014.

Stephanie Cristello is a Staff Writer for ArtSlant, and the Chicago Contributor of New American Paintings.


[1] Beyoncé, Sweet Dreams

[2] Mazzy Star, Fade Into You

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