Tony Ourseler at Metro Pictures
reviewed by Annette Isham
In his latest show, Cell Phones Diagrams Cigarettes Searches and Scratch Cards, at Metro Pictures gallery in New York (February 28 through April 11, 2009), Tony Oursler comments passively on socially acceptable addictions. Through a number of projected images and sculptures, Oursler creates a thoughtful and expressive show. When first entering the exhibition the viewer is confronted with a forest-like display of burning cigarettes. Images of cigarettes are projected onto tall white cylinders of varying sizes.
The volume and reality given to the images when projected onto an actual structure is always very surprising. Each cigarette is of a different brand and the viewer can see a detailed picture of burning tobacco, with ashes slowly developing, perching momentarily at the tips of the cigarettes,and then sporadically falling. It is startling to see something that is usually flicked away and disregarded turned into something monumental and self-destructive.
In the next room of the gallery is a hilarious projection of a five-dollar bill. Abe Lincoln licks his lips sensuously and talks nonsensical gibberish. Then there is a series of dollhouse-like structures housing miniature images of people who are also nonsensical and confused. They communicate with each other with both indecipherable language and extreme body movements. Occasionally their images are lost in a bright flash, which we then find out is an explosion that has moved them to a different room in the little house. The last two pieces are large structures with projections of lottery tickets being endlessly scratched and of a cell phone with jumbled audio snippets. This show, while commenting on social addictions and I think confusion, is really doing nothing more than just commenting without lecturing or presenting solutions. Oursler presents the issues but leaves the audience to make their own decisions about the issues. He does this by being incredibly observant but also funny and entertaining.