How many billboards?
Photo: Gerard Smulevich

Renée Greene

Renée Green's billboard features a grey seascape with outcroppings of land visible in the near distance. Dark water conforms to tracks made by the kind of ferry that shuttles tourists and commuters. The foreground is occupied by the outlines of several figures standing at the rear of the vessel. The image centers on a muted sun trying to break through dense cloud cover. This brooding, timeless scene is evocative of nineteenth century Romantic literature and painting, which developed in the wake of Western European industrialization and urban sprawl. However, two bands of text framing the image-"Strangers Begin Again" in yellow and "Native Strangers Hosting" in red-interrupt any sense of reverie. Like many of the banner pieces that Green has consistently produced since the early 1990s, the phrasing is purposely ambiguous, yet pointed. "Strangers" and "natives" are loaded terms. The status of each is never fixed but changes almost cyclically, especially when considered in terms of geological time rather than the recent histories of nations or states. The word "hosting" also carries multiple meanings. It demarcates the roles of visitor and guest, but also refers to a biological relationship in which a parasitic organism drains its host for its own survival.

The image is a still from a film that is part of a recent project by Green called Endless Dreams and Water Between (2009), which includes four film projections, sound works, banners, and drawings. Together these works trace several fictional characters' engagements with the islands of Manhattan; Majorca, Spain; the various isles dispersed around the San Francisco Bay and the California Pacific Rim; and the San Francisco peninsula itself, where Green currently lives and works. Green calls our attention to these landmasses precisely because they do not typically fulfill the fantasy of tropical exoticism. Each is insular and paradoxically cosmopolitan. Most importantly for Green, they are situated within bodies of water that connect human bodies, giving rise to themes of travel and migration. Green's ongoing interest in cultural flows and personal histories link this maritime project to her other important discursive works that use personal memories and narrative to pry open monolithic histories such as Import/Export Funk Office (1992). An archive-like installation and CD ROM project, Import/Export Funk Office traces the international dispersion of hip hop and its cultural and political significance through the presentation of books, magazines, photographs and videos much of which Green pulled from the personal library of the German cultural critic Diedrich Diederichsen.
By Gloria Sutton

LOCATION: La Brea Ave, north of Lexington, on the west side of the street, facing south.
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Renée Greene (b. 1959)
Renée Green is an artist, filmmaker, and writer who lives and works in San Francisco and New York. A survey of 20 years of her work was organized in 2009 by the Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne. In 2008, the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, organized a retrospective of her films. Selected solo exhibition venues include the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Dallas Museum of Art; De Appel Foundation, Amsterdam; Vienna Secession; Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona; Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati; and National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Her work has been included in many group exhibitions including Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and International Center of Photography, New York. Her work has also been present at the Whitney, Venice, Johannesburg, Kwangju, Berlin, Sevilla and Istanbul Biennials, as well as in Documenta 11. She has published essays in Transition, October, Frieze, Flash Art, Texte zur Kunst, Spex, and Sarai Reader, among other magazines and journals.
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