Ella's Gift

Cifo is an oasis in a desert of concrete rot

One of the targets hanging outside, which was peppered with bullets from Galindo's long-barrel .38, shows she hit the bull's-eye almost every time.

With violence against women a hot-button topic, and the artist's homeland a region where violence permeates daily life, the riveting video performances seem to advocate that everyone should stay strapped if they want to survive in a hostile world.

Venezuelan Alessandro Balteo's UNstabile-Mobile links the histories of art, politics, and power in an installation referencing the natural contours of Iraqi oil fields in an Alexander Calder-esque sculpture. He includes historical documentation and wall text alluding to the region's instability and occupation by military forces.

Among the documentation Balteo has placed as a handout for his project are Iraqi oil field maps relinquished under a March 5, 2003 Freedom of Information Act lawsuit concerning the activities of the 2001 Cheney Energy Task Force.

The artist's sculpture, assembled from pieces prefabricated industrially from petrochemical materials, conveys a sense of the pipelines and oil fields depicted on the map.

Carlos Motta takes the spectator on a journey through the history of Saint Petersburg, Russia, in his provocative series of videos, Leningrad, Petrograd, Petersburg.

In one video, the Colombian artist offers a poignant take on the Leningrad that underwent years of political repression under Stalin's rule. Two poems — Anna Akhmatova's "Petrograd, 1919" and Osip Mandelstam's "Leningrad (1930)" — are heard solemnly intoned in Russian over the video montage of modern-day Saint Petersburg in stark black-and-white.

The image of a seagull is seen gliding in the sky in one scene, and a slow-motion closeup of a man speaking into a microphone is captured in the next. Other scenes jump to sailors wearing striped tank tops while swabbing a ship's deck.

As a woman's voice reads lines from the poems, subtitles reveal the words: "I live in a black, black staircase, and a bell ripped from its meat kicks and stabs at my forehead."

In one segment of the video, the camera lingers on the shoes of someone walking on a rain-slicked street, as the umbrella the person is holding overhead casts a shadowy nimbus on the ground.

These works — and those of Mariana Castillo Deball, Jacqueline Lacasa, Rubens Mano, and Carla Zaccagnini, also on display — not only are remarkable for their diversity, but also leave one praying that cifo's accomplishment here will somehow breathe life into the necrotic streets outside.

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