John Gerrard, "Oil Stick Work" + "Knoedler Project"
Thu Feb 26 2009
Photograph: Courtesy Knoedler Project Space and the artist
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5
A projection at Simon Preston shows a barn with silos standing on a prairie that stretches toward the horizon. Triggered by the viewer’s movement, the image begins to move in a cinematic pan. But Oil Stick Work (Angelo Martinez/Richfield, Kansas), the centerpiece of Irish artist John Gerrard’s New York solo debut, offers only a virtual tour of the plains: The piece is a real-time animation made with video game technology. As the scene revolves, we see a worker coloring one side of the barn black with the titular medium. He’s programmed to do that for 30 years, until the entire structure becomes a silhouette on the landscape. Extended duration accounts for a large part of Gerrard’s work, as does the theme of petroleum: The black crayon with which the worker colors the building is meant to invoke the oil made into fertilizer, which in turn is used to grow the corn that ostensibly fills the silos.
At Knoedler, Gerrard offers something similar in the sequence of an oil rig, seen on a huge plasma-screen resting on a table, moving rhythmically up and down as it presumably pumps black gold out of the ground. Its motion looks like the pecking of some giant bird or a figure bowing in perpetual prayer. Each of Gerrard’s forays into virtual reality might operate over lengthy spans of time, but together they form an elegy to an age of oil that is on the wane. —Joseph R. Wolin