Author: Deborah Wilk
Time Out New York, December 28, 2006 - January 3, 2007

Sue de Beer, the Quickening

Marianne Boesky Gallery, through Jan 10

Is Sue de Beer growing up? In The Quickening, the artist shifts her fixation from late-20th-century adolescence to the era of Purtian New England. Her new video - installed in a shag-carpeted, red-walled room complete with dropped ceiling - features lovely young women attired in 18th-century millinery, gray and scarlet frocks, and hyper-fashionable high heels being stalked by a faceless killer. At first, the action suggests an exploration of female sexual power and its repression. The ensuing half hour, however, shot in de Beer's now-signature style of low-rent horror films, is more mystifying than enlightening as it layers reference upon reference.

In one particularly trippy sequence, the would-be killer is lulled into a trance in which he envisions one of his victims as a forest nymph/housewife who takes time to dance with dangerous animals while sweeping leaves from a woodland floor. A catalog essay by Kim Paice explains that "his visions allow us to understand the creativity of magic, sexuality, and art as social resistance." Possibly, though viewers unversed in De Beer's sources - Puritan sermons by Jonathan Edwards and writings on decadence by J.K. Huysmans among them - are unlikely to make the connection. The texts may have helped de Beer deconstruct some complex components of sexual politics, but the imagery they inspired fails to illuminate the murky landscape of power-structured relationships. Nonetheless, while The Quickening is far from resolved, it does reveal an artist will to taking risks as she matures.