through Spring 2012
by Jeffrey Bussmann
2 Videos reunites Mark Bradford and Carlos Avendaño, longtime friends and sometime collaborators, who previously worked together at the Fabric Workshop and Museum to create Storefront in 2007. While the two short videos were produced separately and shot at different times, both reflect on gender and sexuality in public space.
Bradford’s Niagara takes its name from the film that featured Marilyn Monroe’s breakout lead performance. A littered sidewalk in South Central Los Angeles becomes a high-fashion catwalk as a young black man sashays confidently away from the viewer. His transgression is that such an open and bold display of effeminacy in a tough neighborhood invites ridicule, ostracism, and even the threat violence.
Avendaño shot Brenda on a Halloween night in West Hollywood, mere miles away from South Central, but an infinitely more gay-friendly environment. Costumed revelers pass through the frame, but the video lingers on a trio of drag queens. One of them points at us, initially wary of the camera, before rapidly becoming enchanted with being filmed. She, like Bradford’s protagonist, acts deliberately, vamping as though a top model.
In Niagara and Brenda, each character grasps a moment of celebrity, but the potential personal repercussions are starkly different.
Jeffrey Bussmann works at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently researching Brazilian cultural organizations for his master’s thesis in Arts Administration at Drexel University. He also writes for his blog Post-Nonprofalyptic.