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Jeremy Blake’s “Winchester” trilogy at Madrid’s Reina Sofia makes the San Jose house of mystery seem as distant as any Hollywood concoction. But the Rorschach-like abstractions that accompany the more recognizable images don’t take advantage of that distance, they just wrap it in a seductive veneer that makes for eye candy par excellence but leaves a void that no amount of curatorial text can fill. Just a block away at the Godoy pet store a more meaningful juxtaposition is played out between an enormous collection of oversized spiders, beetles, and scorpions (all pinned and labeled), and, less than a meter away, a small group of puppies of kittens and puppies awaiting purchase. This economic display of pending doom says far more about the uncertainties that the quest for greenbacks can lead us into than abstracted pictures of a violent history ever will.

Back in Berlin, Rem Koolhas’ “CONTENT’s” at the Neue National Galerie is an overview of his projects since 1995. Timed to coincide with the opening of his new Dutch Embassy, the show is chaotic, entertaining, and aggressively packed with information. Ideas, sketches, diagrams, and in-progress models are favored over more finished forms of documentation. While the apparent squatting of this assemblage in the ultra-sleek Mies van der Rohe-designed museum has offended not a few visitors, its placement effectively shows the aftereffects of the modernist heritage in urban design and metropolitan social order. One small monitor plays a documentary of Koolhas at work in his offices, on building sites and in lecture halls. Given his relentless energy and exacting direction of everyone around him it seems amazing that he can put up with the slow process of architectural design and construction at all. Luckily for us it allows him enough time to generate a body of commentary as rich as the one shown here.

- Ed Osborn [Monday, January 12th, 2004]

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