David Claerbout at Sean Kelly
It can be curious to find digital images in video: Jurassic Park (1993) still looks pretty sharp, while pixelated objects in more recent monster or action movies can stick out like a sore thumb. David Claerbout’s current show at Sean Kelly, his first at the gallery and his first in New York in eight years, plays both. His 2015–16 video, KING (after Alfred Wertheimer’s 1956 picture of a young man named Elvis Presley), digitally reconstructs, in the round, a 1956 photo of Elvis at home. The detail, while startling, in many places comes off as rubbery, like a video game. Nonetheless, it’s a wonder to have long-gone artifacts revivified, to walk through a still image. Even more striking is Oil Workers (from the Shell company of Nigeria) returning home from work, caught in torrential rain (2013), another digital reconstruction, which inhabits the other end of the spectrum: of completely convincing virtual detail. As the camera pans through a picture of laborers sheltering under a flooded overpass, one is challenged to distinguish between Bill Viola-like slow motion and uncanny, still reproduction. Claerbout’s careful vision allows us to revel in still images precisely because he makes them almost live.