Over the past few years, Robert Longo’s work has grown increasingly preoccupied with the stature and language of the current American political crisis, exploring gun violence, political absenteeism, police oppression and a range of other cultural motifs indicative of our current political/cultural epoch. Marking a new entry in this ongoing investigation, the artist’s current show at Metro Pictures, Amerika, marks the beginning of a two-part exhibition by the artist and a continuation of his Destroyer Cycle series, an investigation into the politics of power, futility, and aggression.
Amerika is a striking show, particularly for the concision of its statements, compiling major emotional and perceptive payloads into a selection of only three large-scale works dwelling on social and political conditions today. Entering the gallery, the viewer is greeted by Death Star (2018), a monumental sculpture that responds to the exponential proliferation of mass shootings in the United States. A hulking orb of bullets, the work sees a continuation and reconfiguration of his 1993 work of the same name, increasing the bullet count to over over 40,000 copper and brass assault rifle bullets, reflecting the massive increase in mass shootings in the U.S. over the last 26 years, and turning the work into a staggering statistical abstraction.
In the rear gallery, the artist has installed an immense, three-panel charcoal drawing of the White House rendered in the artist’s meticulous and heavily-detailed technique. The image, presenting the White House as some sort of looming, ghostly skeleton, is a dark representation of the world of today, a place where an enduring image of American government is presented as a fragment of a dated past, a ghostly remainder that the artist illustrates as both looming over the viewer, and shrinking away from a stentorian or authoritative stature. Longo’s image is that of a symbol absent of its past meaning, a confused and bulky metaphor that speaks to the confusion and distress of the era it is currently living through.
In the upstairs gallery, an immersive film installation incorporates iconic imagery extracted from the media, a range of news items and scenes pulled from the past few years, and which Longo has used as source material for some of his charcoal drawings. Taken as a whole, one is presented with a world changed by fracture and confusion, united by images like the White House downstairs, representative of leadership and guidance, yet empty to observers.
The show closes May 24th.
— C. Rinehart
Robert Longo: Amerika [Exhibition Site]