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Culture Lust by Angela Carone

San Diego has been the home to world renown artist Eleanor Antin for many years and now it's become a backdrop for her latest body of work.  A solo exhibtion at the San Diego Museum of Art titled Eleanor Antin:  Historical Takes , features over 50 large-scale tableaux photographs in which Antin reimagines and stages scenes from Roman and Greek history and mythology using contemporary actors and models.  Many of the photographs were shot in and around San Diego.  They are lavish, decadent scenes with Antin's wit and extensive research at play.  Take, for example, The Tourists (see below), a photograph in her Helen's Odyssey series.  On a rocky hillside (a recognizable southern California topography as a great stand-in), bloodied Trojan warriors lay scattered in the aftermath of battle. But amidst the savagry, a blonde and a brunette dressed in brightly colored dresses laugh and casually dismiss their surroundings. They carry straw handbags and wear modern sunglasses, perhaps headed to an afternoon of shopping after touring the carnage. In this work, as in many others in Historical Takes , Antin illustrates a corrupt society and the decline of civilization.  The slideshow below has more images from the exhibition.

The Tourists

Antin is a celebrated performance and installation artist, a filmmaker and a photographer.  Her extensive body of work has explored history, identity, gender, and her own Yiddish heritage.  Antin has often cast herself in various roles and narratives to explore her ideas.  She famously became Eleanora Antinova, a black ballerina in Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, writing a fictional memoir for her ballerina persona and making numerous films starring Antinova.

Eleanor Antin:  Historical Takes will be on view at the San Diego Museum of Art through November 2nd.  Make sure to watch the multiple videos at the exhibit documenting the production of these photographs.  It's fascinating to watch what went into this body of work, with the shoots operating like a film set complete with Antin yelling "action" only to have her actors freeze in a tableaux.   

August 14, 2008 at 08:04 PM
LOVED the Antin show, but I’d have to move in or a week to have time to absorb all the details and layers of information ….and get a PhD!

Kathi Diamant
August 19, 2008 at 09:45 PM
Angela, thanks for this great review--I can't wait to see it--in fact, I can't wait...I'm going there now!

susan hayes from rancho santa fe
August 19, 2008 at 10:53 PM
The wonderful shots in the trees etc were taken at a glorious historic estate in Rancho Santa Fe that was on the RSF Historical Society's home tour a few years ago. Among other events in it's history, it was an R & R facility during WW II. I'm sure the wounded soldiers would have been amused and amazed by these scenes! The present owner is a classical scholar, and must so appreciate the lively recreation of archetypal stories. I too so enjoyed the mini-documentaries of the shoots.

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