Ryan Trecartin, "I-Be Area"

The films of Ryan Trecartin, the 26-year-old wunderkind who was the youngest artist in the 2006 Whitney Biennial
Ryan Trecartin, I-Be Area
Photo courtesy Elizabeth Dee Gallery Ryan Trecartin, I-Be Area
By Howard Halle |
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What would happen if all the characters appearing in those flickering videos on YouTube got together and decided to put on a show? They might look like the films of Ryan Trecartin, the 26-year-old wunderkind who was the youngest artist in the 2006 Whitney Biennial. Trecartin makes movies with a pack of friends who embody the clones, poseurs, avatars and wanna-bes of contemporary Internet culture. The plots are slippery and almost non-narrative, but his style is so original and refreshing that the work could never be called boring. Often, in fact, it’s downright thrilling.

The show is centered around I-Be Area, Trecartin’s latest film, shown in its 100-minute entirety in a darkened room in the gallery. It’s worth watching from beginning to end as it traces a day in the life of I-Be II, the superindependent clone of I-Be, played by Trecartin with a Southern accent. Veering between surrealism and science fiction, Trecartin takes on multiple personae, including a witless Valley girl named Oliver and Pasta, a he-she sweetheart with a Dutch-boy haircut. The artist made all the sets and costumes, giving the film the look of an amateur theater production—but in a good way, like the work of Kenneth Anger or Paul McCarthy. Pay attention to the script, also written by Trecartin: It’s packed with witty allusions, taking shots at the art world, Internet chatrooms, cell-phone filmmakers and self-designated blog stars.

The installations on view at the gallery are made from materials reclaimed from the movie set. Jamie’s Band, a sculpture built out of school lockers and classroom desk-chairs, is one element of the final scene when the narrative devolves into a brawl-like be-in for a generation that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be or even what being means. With his multitude of talents, Trecartin is poised to become the next Matthew Barney, the perfect artist for an era when iPhones, MySpace and Project Runway dominate contemporary aesthetics.

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