Notions of time, place and memory have long been fertile topics for visual, film and literary artists. So it is for the acclaimed Uruguayan artist Alejandro Cesarco and the young Minneapolis artist Jonathan Bruce Williams, whose unique and stylistically different perspectives on such abstract concepts are on view at Franklin Art Works.
Cesarco, who represented Uruguay in the 2011 Venice Biennale, has created a mesmerizing short single-channel video projection titled "The Two Stories." We hear a narrator speaking in uninflected Spanish, and glean from the subtitles he is recalling a reading he once presented in the period Victorian home where we now stand. He describes the filtered light and people in attendance, including two elderly women and a young woman; he "runs his eyes through her hair," yet we see no one, only the chairs and tables they once occupied. In the garden a nude statue "represents a role it couldn't understand." Only the bushes move, blowing in the wind.
With its long tracking shots of the airless house and inaccessible garden, dream-like atmosphere and hypnotic language, the black-and-white video shares the ambiguity of time, place and memory central to Alain Resnais' film "Last Year at Marienbad." Based on a story by Felisberto Hernandez, the video's enigmatic narrative structure makes repeated viewings a must and a pleasure.
Williams' mixed-media sculptural installations "Sighthouse" and "Fenced In" are more concrete interpretations of time, place and memory but no less oblique in their narrative.
Serendipitously, a supply house offered Williams 30 16-millimeter film projectors, which he stripped down and meticulously retooled, making them the burnished aluminum protagonists of his work. "I gave an aesthetic to the retro projectors," he said during a recent gallery visit. "They are now indeterminate in time and their existence. A sort of vision of the future from the past."
The more successful of the installations is "Sighthouse." A large architectural structure created primarily from wood and aluminum that incorporates two 16-millimeter film projectors and one 35-millimeter slide projector, it suggests a vernacular style home from rural America. On one wall is projected a stop-motion animation of an old upright piano being rapidly assembled and disassembled. Projected on top of this frenetic "flicker film" are words and phrases that evoke notions of time -- "persistently," "ad infinitum" and "soon enough."
The structure's roof morphs into a lighthouse mounted with a fog-making machine and 16-millimeter projector. As the gallery is blanketed in fog, out-of-focus color images sweep across the walls -- the only color in Williams' work.
"Fenced In" is smaller in scale. A circular black picket fence is mounted with four retooled 16-millimeter projectors rigged with flash units. A single filmstrip loops through all four machines, projecting images of an overgrown backyard onto a small cube form at the center coated in phosphorescent paint. The viewer, like a voyeur, strains to see the tiny glowing images flashing on a five-second cycle.
'THE TWO STORIES' & 'SIGHTHOUSE'
When: Noon-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat. Ends Oct. 27. Where: Franklin Art Works, 1021 Franklin Av. E., Mpls. Info: 612-872-7494 or www.franklinartworks.org.