Three short, single-channel videos, the longest just under three minutes in duration, anchor a show of nine large drawings by New York-based artist Chloe Piene at Susanne Veilmetter Los Angeles Projects.
The drawings are all rendered in clipped, spindly, agitated lines that loosely describe fragmented, luxuriously reclining female nudes, all shattered in the amorphous space of large sheets of paper. Reminiscent of De Kooning’s choppy, seaside clam-diggers, they’re titled more aggressively -- with variations on the word “Valkyrie.”
Those are the women in Norse mythology who decide which soldiers in a battle will live or die. Piene’s three short videos installed in an adjacent room are clipped from grim, often brutal found-footage shot with body cameras by American soldiers fighting in Iraq.
The first is a loop showing a machine gun jerkily being positioned in the dirt, accompanied by scraping sounds. It’s like a metallic praying mantis, readying itself to pounce.
The second is a jumpy view of bleak, scrubby landscape. Soon it’s accompanied by the pop-pop-pop of gunfire. The screen goes blank as anxious shouts of “Medic!” repeat for what seems like an eternity, punctuated by desperate swearing.
Next come a few moments of a camera-view facing down, traveling across dusty ground. The screen goes blank again. Chaos erupts – troops hollering, incoherent orders barked, communications interrupted, just as they are in Piene’s video.
In a sense, like Piene’s “Valkyrie” the videos are drawings too, with the artist’s sharp edits taking the place of brisk delineations in charcoal on paper. What remains unseen – the empty space – is as important as the fragments of imagery that appear on the screen.
Despite their brevity, “Gun 01,” “Shrapnel” and “I’m Hit” are exhausting to watch. Partly that’s because the information that is withheld makes the brief images more intense. And partly it’s a result of being documentary: The torn flesh is unseen but real, and a viewer’s own body clenches.
Turmoil meshes with mortality. You peer into video imagery that is rear-projected onto a rectangular, roughly laptop-size screen flush with the surface of the gallery wall. Sound comes from four similarly arrayed speakers. A Minimalist composition, its power to disturb is anything but slight.
Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, 6006 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 837-2117, through July 3. Closed Sun. and Mon. www.vielmetter.com