Academic journal article Afterimage

The Avenger

Academic journal article Afterimage

The Avenger

Article excerpt

Jim Pomeroy A Retrospective

New Langton Arts

San Francisco, California

June 9-July 24, 1999

Jim Pomeroy A Retrospective

Essays by Paul DeMarinis, Timothy Druckery,

Jim Melchert, Susan Miller and Constance Penley.

San Francisco: New Langton Arts, 1999 69 pp./$25.00 (sb)

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The retrospective of Jim Pomeroy's work at New Langton Arts in San Francisco brought the artist's corpus back to the gallery (then called 80 Langton Street) he helped found in 1975. The figure of Pomeroy (1945-1992) was strikingly present in the exhibition. He appeared not only as an actual visage that could often be seen in the wide variety of media and in the remnants of performances that were on display, but he also haunted his own retrospective as a pervasive mood, a sensibility that enveloped the show. As the opening reception made clear, Pomeroy is a wildly admired and profoundly missed figure in San Francisco and his spirit hovered above as a true revenant.

The design of the exhibition successfully captured and reproduced much of the tenor of Pomeroy's work. Video (both as work and document), traditional and interactive sculpture, installation, photography, projection, music (and Pomeroy's customized instruments that produce it) and relics mingled freely. Flickering lights (from videos, slides and the spinning zoetrope), together with tinny music box sounds (often of pop classical melodies at slightly maladjusted speeds), created a pulsating environment where the viewer moved from one frenzied scene to another.

The works themselves exhibit the range of Pomeroy's interests, returning repeatedly to the intersection of science and culture and their effects on public life. The various personae of the artist that the contributors to the show's catalog allude to--"avenger of the avant-garde," Boy Mechanic, Thomas Edison and Bertolt Brecht among many others--appeared at numerous points throughout the exhibition. Part performer, jester, situationist, saboteur and pedagogue, Pomeroy directs different dimensions of his identity at specific projects. The energy of the artist and his works stands in amusing contrast to the fatigue of his appliances, which seemed strangely annoyed by the uses to which they had been put. The vacuum cleaners that hung from a ladder in the self-performing sculpture Back on the Ladder/The Beat Goes On... (1979) appeared truly exhausted. Tired machines and soft technology clutter Pomeroy's otherwise excited landscape.

The gadgetry often associated with Pomeroy's work was abundant in the retrospective, but the technophilia that is sometimes wrongly attributed to Pomeroy was clarified here as a searching desire to bend the uses of simple apparatuses. Most often, Pomeroy's appropriations of soft technologies explore the realms of optics and sound. Anamorphic lenses, 360-degree viewing spaces, anaglyphic and digital 3-D, mutant musical instruments and uncanny melodies are among the projects to which Pomeroy puts his tired machines. Especially effective are the 3-D shark theater Clear Bulbs Cast Sharp Shadows (1987) and the panoramic installation It's Only a Baby Moon (1984). Both environments feature what Paul DeMarinis calls in his catalog essay "rejected technologies," in this case anaglyphic (red and blue) 3-D and the panorama, respectively. Pomeroy returned to these abandoned forms in order to pursue the fantasy that surrounds them: the opportunity to expand the experience of one's perception and to reconfigure the reach of one's senses. The desire to enter into a material visual field brings Pomeroy back in numerous works to the fantasy of 3-D.

Rejected by the film industry for being, according to DeMarinis, "too messy, cumbersome, or downright unsanitary," anaglyphic 3-D (as opposed to cleaner digital systems) is "uncomfortably intrusive because it involves the viewer too intimately in the mechanism. …

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