Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Kota Ezawa at Murray Guy


Ever had an art opening all to yourself for a major museum level artist? I did this past Saturday night at the Kota Ezawa exhibition "Multiplex" at Murray Guy in Chelsea. Taking place right in the middle of the worst remnants of Tropicle Storm Hannah, this reviewer cooled her heels for a bit behind the black curtains and dried out to a truly fantastic work of social commentary by the San Francisco-based artist. Ezawa is always great at breaking down the wall between artist and audience, (take his previous O.J. Simpson jury verdict piece that brilliantly held a moment in history in rapture) and his new piece "Brawl" is no exception. A frame-by-frame digitized recreation of the Detroit Pistons/Indiana Pacers bench-clearing smackdown that moved from the court into the stands, Ezawa is able to recreate the moment in painstaking detail with the slow motion of his editing and focus on the sights and sounds of that painful day. I like how the rotoscope animation effects of Ezawa's works flatten every player to an almost cardboard cutout quality. Similar to the painted single-frame technique of animation, including the fairly recent Richard Linklater film, "A Scanner Darkly," Ezawa is a master of his craft.

The piece is given a soundtrack of narration from sportcasters that was originally broadcast throughout the fight, from its initial start on the floor from a foul by Piston forward Ron Artest, eventually making its way into the stands. You see the separation between players and fans in literal black and white, with not only the viewpoints of the fight participants, but also in the skin color of fans vs. the players. Much as the gladiators fought to the death in the Roman Colliseum to the delight of the plutocracy, so, too, must these young men in uniforms perform for their paying crowd. Though they have achieved wealth and celebrity beyond their wildest dreams, here they are still taunted as "boys," or "hoodlums" by the beer-swilling, cup-throwing, pullover sweater-clad season ticket holders. Here was a moment of fracture-- duck feathers could no longer apply. Perhaps it was a fight for respect, as well as for domination, machismo and bravado. The invisible wall that separates the performer from audience had been barreled over. The clock would not be turned back.

After the numerous suspensions and fines on the players from both sides, it is now considered to be a dubious moment in sports history, but Ezawa does a fantastic job at bringing it back to the forefront. It is a historical moment not to be forgotten.

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