Video art is notoriously hard to show in art galleries. It can hog a lot of space, its sound can spill over into other rooms, and its equipment can be cumbersome (though lighter and cheaper with every year).
And that's not considering challenging content, like Brazilian artist Tunga's recent video of a bizarre, alchemy-fueled sexual encounter that makes David Lynch movies seem sweet and straightforward by comparison.
So when gallery owner Christopher Grimes had the idea of doing a broad sampling of international video art in his space in Santa Monica, he wanted to make the format, if not the content itself, more accessible. And he came up with a festival-style program as a way of working around the gallery's space limitations.
Starting Friday, the Christopher Grimes Gallery is presenting eight weeks of video art programming, each week featuring work from a different city curated by a different artist.
"The idea of doing a collective simultaneous video exhibition with light spill and sound spill was very problematic," he says. "And there's so much video being produced these days I wanted to do something more expansive than a two- or three-person exhibition."
The artist-curators are a strong group: Marco Brambilla for Los Angeles, Richard T. Walker for San Francisco, Walker & Walker for Dublin, Wood & Harrison for London, Juliao Sarmento for Lisbon, Reynold Reynolds for Berlin, Takehito Koganezawa for Tokyo, and Tunga for Rio.
Each artist or collaborative team chose five artworks, starting with one of their own, so there is a new video running on a loop every day the gallery is open, Tuesday through Saturday. In a small screening room at the back of the gallery, visitors can call up any of the 39 videos not on display at the time to view on demand. (A full schedule is online at http://www.cgrimes.com.)
Another sign that this is not your usual gallery show: The exhibition will, Grimes reports, be traveling, running at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco early next year and the Museum of Modern Art in Rio later in 2012. When asked how much of the show is available for sale, Grimes replied, "The majority of it is probably for sale, through the artists' galleries." (He represents only five of the 40 artists being shown.) "But it's a long shot that anything would sell to begin with because that's just the way it is for video. I wish it were different."
Also look for some museum-style programming accompanying the L.A. show. At 7 p.m. on July 26, independent curator Carole Ann Klonarides talks about L.A.-based video work. At 7 p.m. the next night, it's Getty Research Institute curator Glenn Phillips on video art in Brazil. The next night, Phillips returns to take on Japan.
And no, "Super 8" the exhibition has nothing to do with "Super 8" the movie, besides paying respect to old-school motion-picture format.
"I had absolutely no idea that the movie was coming out when we started working on this six months ago," Grimes says, suggesting that video art and the movie business are still worlds apart.