Arts Desk

Reviewed: “Directions: Cyprien Gaillard and Mario Garcia Torres” at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Want art that’s grim? Check out the dual exhibit of works by Cyprien Gaillard and Mario Garcia Torres. The centerpiece of Gaillard’s offering is a 30-minute, three-part video showing scenes from a massive gang brawl in a Russian apartment complex, a light show projected on a soon-to-be-razed housing project, and a bleak landscape of Russian high-rises, all of which are set to an ironically up-tempo soundtrack by the French musician Koudlam. Included separately are casual Polaroids Gaillard took at dozens of sites of decay, both ancient (Angkor Wat) and modern (Detroit’s once-grand Brush Park neighborhood). The video is needlessly long, and both of Gaillard’s projects are too short of context to be more than partially appreciated. By contrast, Garcia Torres’ meditation on the abandoned Grapetree Bay Hotel in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, is impressively coherent, documenting the hotel’s decrepitude through an old-fashioned slide show and a strikingly catchy, Caribbean-influenced soundtrack by Mario Lopez Landa, piped into the darkened space by a similarly old-fashioned record player. By themselves, the images of the tumbledown hotel are rather indifferent, but when they’re combined with the music, the message of human impermanence comes through loud and clear.

Through March 27, 2011, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Independence Avenue at Seventh Street SW, 202-633-1000. Open daily except Dec. 25, from 10 am to 5:30 pm.

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