"Who Got the Chickens" and "Love Can Build a Bridge"

It looks like Bush isn't the only wellspring of psychic damage deep in the heart of Texas
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"Tumbleweed" by Stephan Pascher

REVIEW/PREVIEW Although No. 43 has finally flown the coop back to Crawford, Texas, our country would do well to remember Faulkner's famous words from 1951's Requiem for a Nun: "The past is never dead. It's not even past." The psychic damage from the Bush years runs deep, and will no doubt keep resurfacing. Maybe it's the Texan atmospherics — the soundtrack of chirping crickets, the smell of sawdust, the strange manqués and photos of tumbleweeds — or the loose "one that got away" narrative that whistles through Stephan Pascher's installation "Who Got the Chickens" that made me think of Bush.

The exhibit's true empty center, though, is Donald Judd. Judd's ghost is most present in Pascher's sculptural centerpiece — an empty chicken coop, a few feathers the only trace left of its former occupant, that faces two gray wooden boxes in a Y-formation. The boxes nod to the concrete sculptures that dot Judd's sprawling Marfa, Texas art ranch like unearthed giant sarcophagi, but Pascher's mixed media assemblage is not as concerned with purity of form as Judd, the anti-minimalist minimalist who once opined that, "Art is free, but it is not a free-for-all." Pascher's show practically calls Judd out on his prissiness — an accompanying short story finds Judd (here named James Dean) throwing hissy fits about bird shit on his sculptures — but it leaves the titular semi-question open and sidesteps anything as concrete as recrimination.

Kevin Killian and Karla Milosevich are perhaps less gracious toward Judd in their 2002 Poets' Theater play Love Can Build a Bridge, which coincidentally is being restaged this weekend as part of BAM's "Bending the Word/Matrix 226" exhibit. In Love, Judd (played brilliantly by the inimitable George Kuchar) is a Lear-like patriarch whose video will has left his extended clan — including country singers Naomi and Wynona, B-lister Ashley, and "illegitimate son" Judd Nelson — in disarray. I asked Killian over the phone if his characterization of Judd had any specific inspiration, and he recalled visiting curator David Whitney, whose Big Sur house had lots of furniture made by Judd. Looking at one such chair, Whitney said: "I can't even stand to look at it or sit in it because he was the most hateful man I'd ever known." It looks like Bush isn't the only wellspring of psychic damage deep in the heart of Texas.

WHO GOT THE CHICKENS Through Feb. 7. Tues.–Sat., 11:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Steven Wolf Fine Arts, 49 Geary, suite 411, SF. (415) 263-3677. www.stevenwolffinearts.com

LOVE CAN BUILD A BRIDGE Sat/31, 7 p.m., free. Pacific Film Archive Theater, 2575 Bancroft Way, Berk. (510) 642-1124. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu

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