New Orleans-based artist Dave Greber‘s charmingly loopy video collages and installations have been popping up all over the Crescent City in the past year, from a star turn in the Prospect 1.5 biennial placeholder last fall to solo shows on either side of Canal Street at the venerable Arthur Roger Gallery in the Warehouse District and the artist-run The Front in the Bywater, along with appearances in several group shows. Far from being overexposed, however, his”vibrant, revelatory video installations inspired by socio-cosmic phenomena” (his words) leave me wanting to see more, and excited to see where he’ll go next.
One online critic has described Greber’s “Stilllives” as “something akin to the cross between a pop video, a video game, a magician’s act and a Dutch still life”; I couldn’t much improve on that description myself, except maybe to add a couple of tabs of acid and a touch of food poisoning to the mix. (That’s meant as a compliment, by the way.)
Greber’s work goes a lot deeper than simple visual pyrotechnics, however; in this video produced in conjunction with his recent “Open Arms” installation at The Front, he discusses its connection to optical phenomena, universal spirituality and Tibetan iconography — not to mention the spirit of collaboration which characterizes so much of the New Orleans art scene itself.
At the Prospect 1.5 show last year, I overheard a visitor comparing Greber’s work to that of Ryan Trecartin (who, coincidentally, also lived and worked in New Orleans at one point). It’s a facile enough distinction to make, especially since it’s difficult to discuss any video art these days without referring to Trecartin in some way — he is, after all, the “artist of our generation” (sic). Both produce frenetic, multilayered works which incorporate visual tropes and conceptual elements distilled from popular culture. And both rely on a circle of friends and fellow artists as costars and artistic collaborators; see, for example, Greber’s “The Wheel” (part of his Prospect 1.5 piece), which stars several members of the New Orleans creative community.
But the similarities can only be taken so far. Where Trecartin’s work relies more overtly on language and explores the way identities are constructed through external signifiers, Greber’s videos address more transcendent experiences, or at least ones which resist verbal description. Greber says his work originates in the optical phenomenon known as phosphenes: close your eyes and rub them in the way he describes in the above video to understand what he’s talking about. Ultimately, Greber’s videos lead you to a place that’s every bit as strange and wonderful — and mysterious — as where they begin.
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