Government, Conspiracy and Art Converge at SMoCA In COVERT OPERATIONS

Ahmed Basiony, 30 Days of Running in the Place (still), 2010/2011. Two-channel color digital video installation with two-channel soundtrack; run time and dimensions variable. Footage from the 2010 performance of 30 Days of Running in the Place and the 2011 Tahrir Square protests, edited by Shady El Noshokaty. Courtesy of the Basiony Estate. © Basiony Estate

Ahmed Basiony, 30 Days of Running in the Place (still), 2010/2011. Two-channel color digital video installation with two-channel soundtrack; run time and dimensions variable. Footage from the 2010 performance of 30 Days of Running in the Place and the 2011 Tahrir Square protests, edited by Shady El Noshokaty. Courtesy of the Basiony Estate. © Basiony Estate

Jenny Holzer, Ribs, 2010. Eleven LED signs with blue, red and white diodes, text: US government documents, 58 1/4 x 5 1/4 x 5 3/4 inches each. Courtesy of the artist and Cheim & Read, New York. © 2010 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay

Jenny Holzer, Ribs, 2010. Eleven LED signs with blue, red and white diodes, text: US government documents, 58 1/4 x 5 1/4 x 5 3/4 inches each. Courtesy of the artist and Cheim & Read, New York. © 2010 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay

Trevor Paglen, Untitled (Reaper Drone), 2010. Chromogenic print, 48 x 60 inches. Courtesy the artist and Altman Siegel, San Francisco; Metro Pictures, New York; and Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne. © Trevor Paglen

Trevor Paglen, Untitled (Reaper Drone), 2010. Chromogenic print, 48 x 60 inches. Courtesy the artist and Altman Siegel, San Francisco; Metro Pictures, New York; and Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne. © Trevor Paglen

Covert Operations: Investigating the Known Unknowns, curated by Claire C. Carter, recently opened at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA), occupying the museum’s four exhibition spaces with intense focus.  Encompassing digital media works, large scale photography and interactive installations, the exhibition questions what we know and what we think we know.

SMoCA writes: “Covert Operations: Investigating the Known Unknowns is the first major survey of a generation of artists working in the violent and uncertain decade following the 9/11 terrorist attacks to collect and reveal previously unreported or under-reported information. This group of international artists includes Ahmed Basiony, Thomas Demand, Hasan Elahi, Harun Farocki, Jenny Holzer, Trevor Paglen and Taryn Simon. They use legal procedures as well as traditional research methods and resources such as the Freedom of Information Act, government archives, field research and insider connections. The thirty-seven artworks included in Covert Operations employ the tools of democracy to bear witness to attacks on liberty and to embrace democratic ideals, open government and civil rights.

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Erin Murray’s Sinister, Surreal Paintings And Drawings Of Suburbia

Erin Murray Erin Murray Erin Murray

At times strangely numb, and at other points echoing a modernist affection for the coldest of structures and surfaces, the most recent work by Philadelphia painter Erin Murray certainly doesn’t lack in focus. Murray’s fixation on the bland, eerily coded architecture of American cities reveals an underlying criticism (or slightly tongue-in-cheek reference) to the simultaneous banality and sinister intentionality that exists in the spaces around us. Rather than allowing these ever-present backdrops of contemporary life to fade quietly into the background, she brings them forward in the hopes that the viewer will find the same suspicious significance in each graphic, expertly rendered façade.

Where her graphite works are dark and slightly ominous, the lush, surrealistic landscapes Murray has sketched out are deliciously disorienting. As a group, they reflect a curious interest in space, place and structure—something that might eventually push Murray’s works off the page and into the 3D realm.

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