The New York Times
ART IN REVIEW; Christian Marclay -- 'Video Quartet'
By ROBERTA SMITH
Paula Cooper Gallery
521 West 21st Street, Chelsea
Through Feb. 1
Anyone who thrills to the rapid-fire cavalcade of scenes from Hollywood movies shown every year at the Academy Awards ceremonies might well camp out with Christian Marclay's ''Video Quartet.'' And because Mr. Marclay's 17-minute, four-screen projection, which borrows from hundreds of mostly American films, goes far beyond anything dreamed up for Oscar night, those interested in John Cage, the scratching riffs of hip-hop, appropriation art and new music will also want to stop by.
Mr. Marclay, who is having his seventh New York gallery show, has long worked in the gap between music and everything else -- objects, everyday sound, images. His collages are seamless alterations of record album covers. His sculptures, including those he showed in the 2000 Whitney Biennial, can be outsize Surrealistic instruments. He has pieced together a conversation from film clips of people talking on the telephone and has confused the senses by giving Michelangelo Antonioni's ''Blow-Up'' the soundtrack from Brian De Palma's ''Blow Out'' in a feature-length 1998 video titled ''Up and Out.''
But Mr. Marclay has never brought music, sound and image into such perfect, beautiful, funny alignment, nor conflated seeing and hearing so ecstatically. This extended visual-musical collage does many things: it sums up the history of music in film, for example, and ticks off levels of the real and the artificial (Jimi Hendrix in concert, Elvis in ''Jailhouse Rock,'' Kirk Douglas in ''Young Man With a Horn''). It syncopates explosions and pratfalls, lines up ''Taps''-playing trumpeters, gangs up double Arthur Rubinsteins and Oscar Levants pounding away on grand pianos, and strings together movie screams that culminate with Maria Callas's hitting high C.
But no amount of naming names, identifying individual movies or describing scenes can account for the work's delicious, fast-paced flow. Mainly, ''Video Quartet'' makes new sound out of old in a process of split-second editing that has kaleidoscopic visual effects. It is an illustrated score in which the illustrations produce all the sound while also cataloging scores of movies, clichés and narratives.
Among the factors that elevate it above Oscar-night compilations is this: the suspicion that Mr. Marclay's fastidiously arranged soundtrack could stand alone as a rhapsody of sampled sound and be almost as satisfying without its marvelous illustrations. This could be taken as evidence of the superiority of music to the visual arts. More likely, it simply reflects the primary focus of Mr. Marclay's sensibility, which he presents here with more than his usual passion.
Published: 01 - 03 - 2003 , Late Edition - Final , Section E , Column 1 , Page 42
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