New York Times, January 4, 2002

ART IN REVIEW: Rumors of War -- A Contemporary Exhibition Inspired by the Art of Jacob Lawrence
By Holland Cotter

Triple Candie is a new, nonprofit gallery on the far west side of Harlem. Started by Shelly Bancroft, it provides space for short-term curatorial projects like its inaugural group show, organized by the curator Franklin Sirmans as a joint project of Triple Candie and the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, which supports the work of young artists.

As a thematic reference point, Mr. Sirmans takes the 1946-7 series of paintings by Jacob Lawrence titled ''War,'' seen in the retrospective of his career now at the Whitney Museum. ''Rumors of War'' doesn't address that series directly, but there are connections. Lawrence's series depicts military life in World War II; Mr. Sirmans's show is a response, however oblique, to war in the present. Lawrence had a gift for presenting somber subjects with an exuberant, pattern-intensive flair; several of the artists in the show do the same. Danielle Tegeder, for example, turns diagrams of cold war shelters into lithe networks of pop color and line. Jennifer Zackin creates mandalas from battalions of minute plastic soldiers. Daisuke Nakayama covers metal hunting traps with red polka dots in the style of Yayoi Kusama. Lucy Orta's line of survivalist couture, called ''Refuge Wear,'' plays with notions of camouflage chic. Athena Robles turns a particular protective accessory, the umbrella, into an open-weave dome from which handwritten scraps of personal correspondence rain down.

In general, politics are wryly understated, as in Gabriele Di Matteo's portraits of nude world leaders and Lennon Jno Baptiste's paintings, which set ambiguous power emblems -- a papal crown, a kneeling Geronimo -- afloat on fields of festive modernist abstraction. A few pieces, though, have real bite. A big, dense text-and-image painting by Deborah Grant catches the paranoiac buzz of a nation at war, while a video installation by Matthew Bakkom brings the moral clangor of the World War II era into the present. The piece, ''Channel Zero,'' centers around a video version of Leni Riefenstahl's full-length 1935 Nazi propaganda film, ''Triumph of the Will,'' edited down to just under two minutes, its flashing, staccato images accompanied by a Public Enemy rap number. The video is installed at the top of a flight of stairs in a darkened space, a properly chilling and imperious setting and one that only an exhibition space on a generous scale can provide. Triple Candie has the space, and some adventurous ideas about how to use it. May it flourish.


On View