Up and Down

Bickle is Elvis with a gun, doubled, and multiplied. He is the cowboy John Wayne, the martyr James Dean, the rebel Brando. He is every American hero run amok, and the most ironic image of America since Jasper Johns painted the American flag, symbol of inclusiveness. This Vietnam vet, put on film in that bicentennial year, is the blown-out image of Johns's 1954 painting.

Credit Gordon for selecting this footage and making it work. But every semester I ask my graduate students to bring in a three-to-five-minute movie clip, and inevitably two things turn up: this sequence from Taxi Driver, and something from Psycho. Gordon plays to our taste, one is tempted to say panders to it, by picking things we already love; essentially he's an editor. This raises the possibility that Gordon is only as good as his source material, which is confirmed at Dia, where he uses film that lacks iconic wattage.

Douglas Gordon's through a looking glass (1999, detail): revealing details within the details of a famous Þlm
Stuart Tyson
Douglas Gordon's through a looking glass (1999, detail): revealing details within the details of a famous Þlm

Details

Douglas Gordon
Gagosian Gallery
136 Wooster Street
Through April 10

Dia Center for the Arts
542 West 22nd Street
Through June 13

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Here, Gordon uses the entirety of Otto Preminger's Whirlpool(1949), a film most people will be unfamiliar with. As usual he splits the screen, and mirrors the images. He has also removed every other frame of the original, so that the whole 40-foot-longprojection functions like a strobe. Occasionally the split image produces some nice Rorschach-like kaleidoscopic effects, but mostly this is a dated, superficial exercise in structural filmmaking. It is formulaic, arch, and inert. Left is right and right is wrong and left is wrong and right is right, as it is called, is as boring and as mild as its title. Digestible Bruce Nauman, it erodes the weighty impression of the Gagosian work and makes you think that the up-and-down Gordon is the real one, after all.

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