BOSS BOSS BOSS

April 19th, 2006

ok i cant beleive someone actually wanted me to post the whole thing, but in case you 1) are rosson crow or 2) like reading arty arty essays, here ’tis. minus the proper italicising and funny like circumflex aigu accenting:::
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Danse Macabre

Maybe there is something uniquely American about seeing behind the facade of historicized reality to the two-by-fours and sandbags propping it up. Baudrillard said, in the unbelievably still-on-American-shelves AMERICA, the exact oppositethat we are the unwitting dupes in one of the most historically scripted theme parks of power, and this maybe forces us to see all the trappings of the past five-hundred years of Western Civilization as elaborate set decor. For Ms. Crow, growing up in suburban Dallas, frequenting old historical residences as well as casinos, experiencing trendy design hotels as well as The Oak Bar at the Plaza Hotel, and even, you could conceivably add, studying at the fantastically faux-gothic bastion of American higher education-Yale-her insight must at the very least be a combination of these two positions. That is, if she treats such styles as the Vienna Workshops patterns and Napoleons apartment at Fontainebleau as, at best, a patina of powerful suggestibility, it is because she has seen such styles slathered upon everything from a hotel lobby to a low-end chain restaurant; and has seen behind them.

This is the most readily apparent characteristic of Rossons work and seductive from the first. In Untitled (Diptych) when you first detect the reproducing slot machines lining up in the redundantly chandeliered French baroque interior, the first haunting in her painting is revealed. Centuries collapse in Rossons paintings as carefully juxtaposed historical interiors and fashions synthesize to reveal the multiply haunted nature of interior space. Fading holograms of furniture and flags, undead bouquets and ambiguously-carpeted planes of space coexist in her concoctions of composited interiors, revealing the anxieties inherent in such a fragmented phenomenology.

In a preppy palette of unanointedly out-of-the-tube eggplant and marigold, crossed with the punk of a hot-pink spray can, Rosson builds her sets, full of facades and finishes but with no flesh or volume. Like a Hollywood sound stage, all is frontal and flimsy. Bouquets that deliquesce in sideways drips look thrust into the scene in Untitled (Equestrian Show), while in Kubrics Kremlin an errant carpet looks yanked off stage right. Most paintings look like derelict historical reenactment movies featuring large stretches of open floor on which fairly anonymous, ersatz period furniture is accessibly arrayed. In Visions of Technicolor, five coffin-ish parallelograms sort of slouch around, the fifth one looking sort of more on the injured side, but after you get visually acquainted with it, you find it, too, rather depicts a funereal, fucked-up The Price Is Right set. The bluish-white globular forms up top resolve into stage lights, and the hovering white circle above the leftmost coffin-fellow is an excellent rendition of lens flare.

Coffins, funerary statue, and vintage hearses are the traffic of her stage: Rossons paintings of familiar historical styles soon become uncanny as her macabre motifs proliferate. Vertigo, based on the fusion of Rossons two favorite sets from the eponymous Hitchcock movie, creates the sort of chill down your spine that you get like when wallpaper peels and you see the previous inhabitants weird paint job, or the way when you see an old Technicolor movie and can be sure within a small margin of error that all the people you are watching talk are dead. The wilted lilies are not the vanitas of her red still life in Vertigo but rather everything in the room is- I mean, could there be a more multiply dead looking place? The content of the paintings makes you start thinking of the finish as less varnished and closer to embalmed.

But soon the manner with which Ms. Crow constructs these theatrical confabulations takes center stage. There seems to be a pastiche of historical painting techniques taking place amidst her topiary gardens and L.A. backyard pool-scapes. Hard edge, tapey abstraction coexists with impastoed, gory, goopy floral arrangements. Fauvist abutted-areas-of-color meet a David Hockney poolside ejaculation. The fact that I dont find this pastiche extremely bothersome led me to an articulation of the main reason I admire Rossons work- the seamlessness of her integrations betrays a uniquely contemporary use of digital aesthetics in paint that informs every move and makes such effortless synthesis visually possible.

The types of distortions and the method of compositing suggest a sort of digital space in which these paintings exist. We find Victorian architecture tilted up, down and all around, elongated, and perspectivally extended. Rosson plays not with Renaissance illusionism but with aspect ratio. Many paintings feature spontaneous grids on illogical planes of space, gradients, fills, or phase-shifted furniture cut and pasted on top of each other. Even her drips are not those casual, arty drips meant to help you focus on the paint as enacted upon by physical laws and the human hand. Rather, the drips look more like the lilies or carpet or antimacassar are being accelerated into hyperspace. Though gestural occasionally, Rossons paintings always somehow feel contained by the intellect, as if she had Photoshopped in a gesture as a discrete object. In Mastersons Saloon, the digital compiling turns into disorienting first-person-shooter video game: the carpet is a fill pattern both used on the floor and on vertical planes, the walls proliferate and angle sharply off like the room was from an early 3D CAD rendered program like DOOM.

This lingering specter of the digital that haunts Rossons work, the theatricality of her sets, and the historical compositing are the chief ways that the interiors in her paintings read as scripted spaces. The control implied in a digitally created space works very well conceptually with the scripted settings she is drawn to: Victorian gardens, the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, a casino, a rodeo, a salon. What all these places of interest to Ms. Crow share are what Magritte called affinities, an oblique resonance across centuries or genres, here the affinity being that they are all historical forms of special effects. As Norman Klein traces in his encyclopedic Vatican to Vegas, everything from the first location in his title to the last reflects an effort to use special effects to distinct economic or political ends. While Ms. Crow is less interested in the who-paid-and-why and more in the who-experiences-what with relation to history and memory, her work does touch on an exploration of how these scripted spaces play a role in the record of collective forgetting and collective sublimation.

The thunderclap moment of spectacular rupture, what Disney called “The Big Wow”, is not what Rosson is seeking, however, but rather a slower moment, one more of emerveillance. The nature of a special effect is such that theres that moment of disorientation, fear, confusion- what you could call rupture, and then theres the reassuring denoument where you integrate that rupture into your worldview as your pulse slows down. It is always complicit: you voluntarily enter into a scenario where you will be either scared, fooled, or robbed, but always deceived. The salient characteristic of this effect is that it is exhaustible. Even in art history: the fifth time you see Holbein the Youngers anamorphic skull resolve into its proper dimensions pales in comparison to the first.

What Rosson does instead is present a meditation on history as special effect: what does it mean to make the experience of history into a special effect? If a special effect is defined as a highly scripted scenario of complicit power exchange, then Rosson is seeking to pull the pants down of every two-bit huckster using subtle suggestions of affluence and the trappings of historical legitimacy to wheedle the money out of your pocket. At the very least she asks the viewer to look past the facades of our mis-en-scene to the little men scampering about lowering props and pressing the fog machine buttons to see that what they thought was their own culture, what they thought was the familiar, is multiply, historically unheimlich. That is to say, you thought you were home but suddenly the ghost of your knock-off wallpaper design appears in the form of a glowing Russian funerary coach.

The experience of history as being always at multiple armslength, always in regurgitated Frankenstein cadaver-monster pastiche- always being triangulated based on multiple, misleading data points- is sort of de rigueur, right? But in each of our discrete heads its all the same if you want to talk about five minutes ago or five hundred years ago. And its the same struggle, too, if you seek to piece together a late 18th century English sitting room for your remake of Pride and Prejudice- or piece together a memory.

What Rosson lacks is that nostalgia for lost origins and that bitter melancholy that usually accompanies such an informed view of the disaster of history in the present cultural moment. It’s what repulsed Baudrillard as he drove through the desert, and for myself, too, it’s infuriating to see how symbols of affluence get recontextualized centuries later in absurd ways. Sitting with Rosson at a low-end chain restaurant outside Yale whose interior is really the most bullshit depressing imitation of a Tuscan vineyard, I’m bemoaning the faux-antiqued stucco walls while Rosson is just excited about the unlimited breadsticks. Something about her generation takes the recombinant and empty circulation of historical symbol in American culture as a given, and a departure point from which to construct a personal history. And through her effortless-looking paintings and their gaudy, lush, optimism, Rosson is dressing up the cadaver of history, slapping some make up on it, and dancing it around the room.

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