The Beautiful, Bizarre End

With four guitars, two amps, a bass, one drum set, one baby grand, two bottles of bourbon, and ten furry, skin caps, this performance is assembled in the only way it could be: on video, in five projections. Kjartansson and his collaborator and fellow musician Davíð Þór Jónsson play every part in the thirty minute concoction, the only members of an eight piece ensemble uncollected in a snowy Canadian wilderness and filling the gallery’s four walls. It’s brilliant. The song, a patient, folksy kind of thing, ambles along as it pleases until those points where it builds into a great cacophony, piano or drums taking control, before settling back into its regular, leisurely warp. The mood is easy, but affecting, and the odd collection of instruments makes for a wriggling, intriguing texture, here bluegrass, there classical — now an electric guitar squawk?

Face to Face

Grand as his undertaking was, Sander’s interest was in ordinary man. His subjects are unique but well-known actors in the routine of everyday. They are our fathers and sisters, our uncles, cousins, grandmothers. While a few made the world stop and start, these individuals cleaned and gleaned and built and baked and jailed and jabbed and delivered mail. Through all the turmoil, Sander’s subjects were the people who went about their lives, their experiences etched into their faces, and ultimately made the thing we call the 20th century possible in the first place.

Oil Spell

Questions about oil are inseparable from contemporary society. Its residue is ubiquitous; its hold inescapable. “Drill, baby, drill,” is a mantra for some, and for others merely a fact. Ours is a civilization built on oil — means of acquiring it, consuming it and disposing of it. We build with it, and we burn with it. We forget its ills quickly because of its convenience, and it continues to drive us in our complacency. It was to this subject that, over a decade ago, photographer Edward Burtynsky turned his lens, and the presentation of Oil now comes to the Nevada Museum of Art.

Vintage Pairings

The piece that perhaps best crystallizes the inherent strangeness of Haman’s photographic exploration is a set of seagulls, one a living, breathing, frozen creature, captured by the artist’s frame, the other a molded, stilted restaurant prop, anchored to an outside wall. The birds assume nearly identical postures in mid-flight and would be mid-flight, and highlight the artificiality of the whole representational endeavor. Which of these, after all, is the more real? From life and decor, Haman has gleaned strikingly similar arrangements. His is a reality rooted in experience, but ultimately created, one in which the outside world is transformed into the reality on the wall.

Something Sorta Real

From the beginning, Marble, GA is naked and unafraid — was knowledge the sin, or was it shame? — and the audience is in on the conceit. “[P]eople are supposed to just take it for what it is,” says the ringmaster, “this difficult-to-decipher, hard-to-follow thing . . . right in front of them.” It’s less novel and more poem, “beautiful and pointless,” in the words of poet and critic David Orr. The tangle of characters and vignettes is loosely tied to the guidestones, but in the end the monument is a foil to explore ourselves: our wonders, our regrets, our loves, our fears, and the beautiful reality of living.