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Leslie Thornton, “Binocular”

Winkleman Gallery
621 West 27th Street, 212-643-3152
January 6 - February 5, 2011
Reception: Thursday, January 6, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to present Binocular, our first solo exhibition by New York artist and filmmaker Leslie Thornton. Thornton’s exquisite ongoing investigations of the cinematic image have taken her into a new and unexpected territory, where she traces the complex interactions between nature, technology, and abstraction.

Binocular consists of a series of flat-screen monitors. On each screen two circular fields appear: on the left, images of animals — birds, reptiles, fish, mammals, some exotic, others familiar and commonplace — beautifully captured, just doing what they do in the wild; on the right, the image is folded back on itself in a centripetal pattern, reminiscent of a kaleidoscope. The two circular fields are intimately connected: the movements of the animals on the left are remapped into the elegant mathematical abstraction on the right. The effect is unexpected and profound: the viewer notices minute tremors and shifts (a small heart beating, for example) in the left sphere, by catching the very same resonant motion, multiplied, recast, and folded into itself in the pattern on the right. There is no anthropomorphism here, no disneyfied cuteness, no identification or domestication. Thornton gives us a glimpse of a world prior to language and exterior to consumption, mute, opaque, and absolutely other.

Leslie Thornton’s beautiful, meditative, camerawork locates the movements of predator/prey relations in the most subtle fragments and configurations of behavior and morphology. All of her work has this intensity, an almost painfully precise focus on the fundamental minutiae of being in the world. In Thornton’s magnum opus, Peggy and Fred in Hell, for example, the tumultuous cacophony of post-apocalyptic litter surrounding her protagonists (two small children) was animate, threatening, epiphanic, and it was inescapable, because as viewers we were carried along into their world. There was just enough for us to make our way without being totally consumed (their own eventual heroic disposition saves Peggy and Fred, and rescues us).

We are similarly transported by the succession of animal/animate spaces in Binocular. Nature is not subsumed or (re)produced, circumscribed or contained, so much as it is reflected, in a strange and elegant mirroring that acknowledges that the space of otherness traced in the image of the animal is filled by an abstract artifactuality, that in fact, there was nothing but an artifactuality present to begin with.

Leslie Thornton has been at the very forefront of experimental film and media since the 1980s, having completed more than twenty film and video works and installations. Her major works include Peggy and Fred in Hell_ (an astonishing and profound multi-episodic work),_ Adynata_ (an important early work on perceptions of China), Another Worldy (one of the strangest and most engaging musicals ever made), Let Me Count The Ways: Minus 10, 9, 8, 7… (a serial, modular, work, an ongoing and deeply moving ‘portrait’ of the artist’s father, who participated in some of the defining events of the 20th century), and many others. An acknowledged pioneer in media, Thornton is a legendary and influential artist whose early works first addressed the interplay between cinema, video, installation and improvisation, in a manner that prefigured many contemporary media strategies. Her works have been exhibited worldwide, at institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, Centre Pompidou, the Tate Modern, PS.1, and many others. Leslie Thornton has also received numerous prizes and accolades, including the_ Maya Deren Lifetime Achievement Award,_ and the first the _Alpert Award in the Arts for Media.

For more information, please contact Edward Winkleman at 212.643.3152 or [email protected]
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