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Review: An Essential Poverty of the Face: Arlen Austin and Craig Doty/Alogon Gallery

Photography, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Video Add comments

There is no “getting” Arlen Austin‘s video piece, “Birdfeed Face,” currently showing at Alogon Gallery, curated by Old Gold. A buck-naked Austin lies on his back, using a syringe to squirt green baby-bird food onto his face and lips, while an adolescent pigeon, just losing its baby bird feathers, looks confused, mostly ignoring the snack on Austin’s face. Briefly, the bird gives a little: he nibbles at Austen’s lip, but remains indifferent, though maybe the bird is just not hungry. Even though the pigeon is a pigeon, not the most sensual animal by any means, Austen appears to long for the bird’s affection, but is continually rejected. Austen often looks like his face is going to explode at the bird, and the mustardy, clumpy substance on his face reinforces that eruptive potential. A monotonous, Speak & Spell-ish narrator mumbles along with the video, though even in the empty gallery it is difficult to hear. Arlen Austen’s story of unrequited love is as classic as any Jane Austen novel, except with a pigeon instead of Mr. Darcy.

Also on display is an overshadowed photograph by Craig Doty, Untitled #7, a staged image of a shirtless man in enticingly low-slung jeans. Doty’s photograph captures ordinariness and emptiness, lending credence to the show’s title. (Natalie Edwards)

Through December 7 at Alogon Gallery, 1049 W. Paulina #3R (enter on Cortez), open Sundays 1-4 pm

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