Lisa Reihana’s immersive installation in Pursuit of Venus [infected] (2015-17) transforms the Bell into a lush land and soundscape, one that reimagines 18th century European exploration of the Pacific as a cycle of colonial reinfection and Indigenous recuperation rather than singular moments of contact. Emerging from her encounter with the 19th century French wallpaper Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique (The Native Peoples of the Pacific Ocean), 1804-5 by Joseph Dufour et Cie, Reihana has transformed these utopian depictions of Captain James Cook’s voyages into surreal vignettes of curiosity, caution, desire, and predation. By unfixing the Indigenous peoples of the original wallpaper from Eurocentric neoclassical fantasy, Reihana–who is Māori–allows for Indigenous agency both within the film and through her practice of “agreed representation” with actors and performers.
Visibility and its refusal are central to this project. The scrolling panorama of an imagined Tahitian landscape acts as an arena where gazes cross, meet, are evaded and recorded. in Pursuit of Venus [infected] challenges historic visual records, their narratives embellished and redacted, enshrined in the decorative wallpaper and scientific journals of the Enlightenment. Projected across the Bell’s seventy-foot wall, this thirty minute film is on continual loop; beginning, middle, and end elusive within a wash of color and sound.
Reflecting the myriad questions Lisa Reihana’s in Pursuit of Venus [infected] installation raises in the adjacent Bell gallery, this small presentation of collection work examines the ways in which American artists have depicted rural landscapes through the framing device of the highway. From the ribbon of pavement that undulates into the distance in Danny Lyons’s The Road to Yazoo City (1963) to Allan D'Arcangelo’s colorful Pop Art amalgams, these artists lean into, and often critique, the mythology that has accrued around “the open road.”
Removed from the context of their portfolios and projects–John Pfahl’s manufactured landscapes, Lucas Foglia’s study of homesteaders in the Southwest–individual and paired works create new meaning through this grouping. Space, time, access, ownership, and “Manifest Destiny” all churn in relation to Reihana’s focus on the colonial gaze. The car as a site of surveillance is amplified in two works by Garry Winogrand, both of which appear to have been shot from the driver’s seat. With the Bell’s collection strength in photography, this show gathers some of the medium’s most celebrated names, offering nuances in approach and execution. Featuring works by Allan D'Arcangelo, Lucas Foglia, Danny Lyon, John Pfahl, and Garry Winogrand.