Fair field full of dainty
|A Little Slapstick
by Oona Stern
Diana Kingsley, "Isle of August," July 7-Aug. 5, 2004, at Leo Castelli, 18 East 77th Street, New York, N.Y. 10021
Diana Kingsley, a 30-something New York photographer who has shown her work with Bellwether and Derek Eller galleries, switched to video for her recent solo exhibition at Leo Castelli. In the three short videos on view, Kingsley indulges her taste for deadpan humor and minimal, fragmentary narratives.
Court Disaster (2000-04), a 2½-minute long, black-and-white bit of silent slapstick, shows only the shuffling sneakers of a woman playing tennis on a grass court, untied laces on one shoe. Her awkward movements are a kind of ungraceful ballet, with the brief glimpse of her panties providing a distraction from the potential danger of the dragging, extra-long laces. As she trips out of the frame, the image fades, leaving the story incomplete. The videos punning title reinforces this open-ended quality.
In buster (2004), a moth-like lantern fly flutters between a flower and a window, beating its wings against the glass. The seamless color loop has the jerky tempo and comic skittishness of a Buster Keaton film. The slow running of a raindrop down the windowpane provides a counterpoint to the insects flurry of activity. The overall composition of the scene is unchanging, giving the impression of a moving photograph, not unlike Matthew McCaslins video sculptures of moving traffic. But buster has a tantalizing narrative element, however minimal and abstract, that gives the tape a curious tension. While technically only a 12-second loop, buster seems eternal.
The third video, Eat in (1997/2004), was projected onto the floor. Oversized images of take-out menus shudder into view, as if they were just slid under a door, and pile atop one another. More of a one-liner than the two other videos, Eat in nonetheless shares their terseness and comedy.
With its visual reductiveness, Kingsleys work has the starkness of pulp fiction, where bare facts and descriptions set a mood more than they add up to a story. Her video narratives are tenuous, threatening to wink out and leave us with still imagery.
Several of Kingsleys photographs were on view in the gallerys back room. Fair field full of dainty (2002) is a color photograph of a tall stack of decorative plates that seems to lean, Pisa-like, off to one side. The artist has managed to imbue a mundane household event with a wonderful, deadpan humor. The stack of plates threatens to topple over, so that even this image, still as it is, hints at an uncertain future.
OONA STERN is an artist based in New York.