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show a blurring of painterly and photographic realities. Angelina Nasso’s show at the Stux Gallery in Chelsea features luminous paintings of what appear to be distant, out of focus lights. Oscillating unsteadily between micro and macro views - it is unclear how close one is supposed to be to the light sources depicted - the paintings are simultaneously illustrative and impressionistic, an exercise in ambiguous perception and pure pleasure.

At Berlin’s Galerie Kamm, Gabriele Basch’s solo show “Weiss” consists of a set of elliptical paintings that look like fragmentary snapshots of unremarkable scenes. Existing just outside the realm of the photographic, the paintings appear to be pieces of a rich and oblique interior narrative, their centers of gravity moving somewhere beyond their edges.

Over at Kapinos Alice Kwade’s c-prints of LEDs from household electronics are also a form of private revelation, though here it is derived from the outside world rather than the inner one - something akin to finding a new universe in your living room. The photos are luminous and painterly, and as with Nasso’s pieces an uncertain relationship takes place between what you are looking at an what you see. Also at Kapinos Jenny Rosemeyer’s collaged photographs and paper cutouts are both elegant and disturbing, their grayscale shapes providing a sculptural foil for images that hint at a domestic disarray just under the surface.

Negativland‘s performance at Maerz Musik featured their usual cut-and-paste critique of American culture, this time around pairing the lust for automobiles with a blind form of patriotism. The first part of the concert showcased a beautifully-preserved widescreen print of footage shot in the mid-sixties from the front seat of a large sedan moving slowly through suburban tract housing. The languid view through the windshield and over the serene streets accompanied by looping voiceovers encouraging driving and consumption showed as well as anything I’ve seen lately the kind of false paradise that is fueled by easy access to cheap oil. Later in the concert audio recordings of prison officials electrocuting a prisoner - and actually having to throw the switch twice since the first jolt didn’t appear to be enough - documented the casual banter and disquieting routineness with which the act occurred.

In the middle of Berlin a different kind of execution is gearing up to take place. Micha Ullmann’s memorial in the Bebelplatz commemorating the May 10, 1933 book-burning by the Nazis is set to be displaced by an underground parking garage. Viewed from above through a glass panel in the surface of the of the Bebelplatz, the memorial is simply a white underground room that features empty bookshelves. I cycle by this site almost every day and the sight of the gathering collection of construction equipment seems more than a metaphor for the growing military forces in the Middle East. One of the most understated and effective memorials anywhere (not to mention a very popular tourist attraction), the piece is a clear reminder of what intolerance and narrowmindedness can do. The fact that the short-sighted priorities of the automobile and the bottom line can destroy this memorial shows how difficult it continues to be to use history as a guide when building a future in the face of market forces.

- Ed Osborn [Tuesday, March 18th, 2003]

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