Art In America

Stan Douglas

at David Zwirner,
519 West 19th Street

Set in Lisbon during the 1974 Carnation Revolution, which ended Portugal’s dictatorship and its colonial ambitions, Stan Douglas’s The Secret Agent is a faithful update of Joseph Conrad’s 1907 novel about the machinations of terrorists and their police antagonists in London. Despite Douglas’s creative use of a six-channel installation—characters in dialogue appear on facing screens and certain scenes are depicted from multiple angles—there’s something oddly claustrophobic about the feature-length cinematic work, which resembles at times a PBS period drama. The actors, cast in Portugal, speak with pan-European accents and often with flat affects. Combined with the overall grayness of 1970s Lisbon, the drab dialogue makes the work a rejoinder to the post-punk glamour bestowed on the era’s revolutionary violence in the 2010 television miniseries “Carlos,” or to the fun of a spy-vs.-spy James Bond film. The police and terrorists alike are small, bumbling, and dreary. Like Douglas’s celebrated photographs (a selection of which are concurrently on view at Zwirner’s 20th Street location), The Secret Agent is a tour de force of set and costume design, awash in accurate details. But the tangled narrative of petty conflict serves almost as a bulwark against nostalgia and romance. As might be expected for a motion picture by a renowned photographer, there is a pervading sense of stasis here. “The terrorist and the policeman both come from the same basket,” as the anarchist Professor says in Conrad’s book. “Revolution, legality—counter moves in the same game; forms of idleness at bottom identical.” –William S. Smith

 

Pictured: Still from Stan Douglas's The Secret Agent, 2015. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York and London.

More from the Lookout

Hyon Gyon

at Shin Gallery,
through Feb. 5
322 Grand Street

Liz Glynn

at Paula Cooper,
through Feb. 11
534 West 21st Street

Pierre Chareau

at the Jewish Museum,
through Mar. 26
1109 Fifth Avenue

Louise Bourgeois

at Cheim & Read,
through Feb. 11
547 West 25th Street

Closing

Mitch Patrick

at Honey Ramka,
through Jan. 22
56 Bogart Street, Brooklyn

Heide Hatry

at Ubu Gallery,
through Mar. 7
416 East 59th Street

“Securing the Shadow: Posthumous Portraiture in America”

at the American Folk Art Museum,
through Feb. 26
2 Lincoln Square

Anthony Caro

at Mitchell-Innes & Nash,
through Feb. 4
534 West 26th Street & 1018 Madison Avenue

Duane Linklater

at 80 Washington Square East Galleries,
through Feb. 18
80 Washington Square East

“The Neighbors, part two, in two parts: Sanctuary: Andrea Bowers and Home: Andrea Aragón”

at the Bronx Museum of the Arts,
through Feb. 22
1040 Grand Concourse

Peter Voulkos

at the Museum of Arts and Design,
through Mar. 25
2 Columbus Circle

Kerry James Marshall

at Met Breuer,
through Jan. 29
945 Madison Avenue

Giorgio de Chirico and Giulio Paolini

at The Center for Italian Modern Art,
through Jun. 24
421 Broome Street

Arlene Shechet

at Frick Collection,
through Apr. 2
1 East 70th Street

Submit your e-mail to receive insider information from the art world every week.