March 26-April 2, 1998; Issue No. 131

Craig Kalpakjian

Robert Miller, through Sat. March 28th

In the early '90s, Craig Kalpakjian made his reputation as a sculptor utilizing bulletproof Plexiglas bankteller windows and security tags--items associated with contemporary paranoia and social control. The nastiness and aura of menace surronding these necessities for today's urban lifestyle made for some memorable installations, but after a show, such items proved difficult to store. It's no wonder Kalpakjian, like so many artists of his cyber-savy generation, turned to virtual-reality environments that theoretically could be kept in one's pocket (in disk form).

Using a computer, Kalpakjian creates what look like soon-to-be-occupied office buildings and shows the results as color photographs. These spaces are neither charming nor unique--just efficient and shrouded with an ominous feeling.

Kalpakjian focuses on the kinds of air vents and public-address speakers in which a company is likely to hide security cameras. One view here seems to be from inside such a vent--the image would bring to mind Mission Impossible-type antics, except that surveillance and security are no longer the perview of intelligence agencies alone. Indeed, one can barely go to the Washington Square dog run these days without being spied on by cameras. Does this make us feel safer? Or does it permanently destroy whatever fragile sense of community we've managed to cling to?

Kalpakjian's talent resides in his subtle, nonpreachy means of reminding us just how restrictive our society has become. Still, there's something a bit unsatisfying about seeing only his photographs; I hope that Kalpakjian hasn't totally abandoned 3-D and video work. Of course, leaving this show a little disgruntled means you've gotten its point all too well. -- Bill Arning