Through the lens of New York filmmaker and photographer Josh Azzarella, images shared in the collective memory of popular culture are subject to revision. Engaging in a meticulous process of rendering culled archival footage frame by frame, and then juxtaposing his own images as if they were a delicate mirage, Azzarella considers a fragile past with an unknowable future. In the career-to-date solo exhibition “Works 2004-2011″ at Mark Moore Gallery, the artist presents original photographs, digital videos, and debuts Untitled #105 (SFDF), a three-channel video installation featuring surround sound. Selecting three static locations from the black and white film King Kong, Azzarella presents a lush black-and-white environ of bubbling lagoon water, the call of hawks, dense forest, and a jagged cliff, but never once does the monster appear. After all, we know the destruction the title character is capable of, and we want to enjoy the uninterrupted and bucolic landscape for as long as we can.
“Works” is the site of a renewed cultural and political experience. In the lounge area of the gallery, 13 digital videos roll on a loop, which meditate on pivotal historical moments and their lingering consequences in present day. Untitled #7 mimics Zapruder’s footage of John F. Kennedy rolling through downtown Dallas, Texas where the Presidential limousine passes the grassy knoll unharmed. The car continues to roll through the crowd and continue on its route as the screen fades to black. In Untitled #29, Azzarella manipulates the footage of a young John F. Kennedy Jr. at his father’s funeral. Instead of saluting his father, he stands idle looking out to the horizon. In the world of Untitled #29 there is no fallen father to salute.
Just as Untitled #120, a digital silver gelatin print, gazes into a rear view mirror to an endless road in the distance, Azzarella’s body of work looks to the past to forge a renewed cultural arsenal of imagery. Whether it be removing the tormented soldiers of Abu Ghraib from the amateur photographs taken by US soldiers, or omitting the oppressive military tanks in Tiananmen Square to make the lone man who dared confront them appear a hero, Azzarella’s message echoes with great clarity. Just as we cannot go back to change history, we can engage in a mode of viewing represented in Untitled #120, which looks ahead while always keeping a watchful eye on the path we forged.
Main Image Credits: Untitled #120 2010
Digital silver gelatin print 13″ x 18″
Photo: courtesy Mark Moore Gallery