to jan. 6, 2007

“Juke,” a set of video installations by Jefferson Pinder, is predicated on a familiar formula: the gotcha. The artist has videorecorded 11 black individuals as they lip-sync to songs by a Grammy-worthy array of musicians. The disorienting feeling comes when the viewer dons the headphones that accompany each screen: All the music, see, is by white artists. More than the sum of its parts, the show finds a nuanced pitch through repetition. Several videos make the case that the songs Pinder appropriates are “white music” per se: for example, Kumasi (Bullet Proof) features a handsome, dreadlock-framed face mock-crooning Thom Yorke’s vulnerable paean to resignation. Pinder balances faces and songs to maximum effect: The pseudo-singer in Roy (Brick) impressively musters a single, sympathetic tear toward the end of the searching Ben Folds Five song—a gesture as saccharine as the song itself but not an obvious parody. The artist succumbs to easy association by pairing an ancient black doyen with Joni Mitchell’s gentrification ditty (“Big Yellow Taxi”), and including Patti Smith’s “Rock n’ Roll Nigger” is a relevant but overpowering move. Pinder himself appears in one video, a tweedy figure whose inscrutable reading of Bowie’s “Space Oddity” underscores the gap between androgynous and black culture. Make that: within the media. Each paired portrait contributes to an overall notion that there is a range of narratives unexamined in popular media representations of black people—and ostensibly unavailable to black people themselves. The exhibition is on view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, to Saturday, Jan. 6, 2007, at G Fine Art, 1515 14th St. NW, Suite 200. Free. (202) 462-1601. (Kriston Capps)