In Bruce Charlesworth: A Recent Project, Photographs, Video, Gallery 400 organized the first Chicago exhibition of Bruce Charlesworth, an artist who works with photography, video, environmental constructions and carefully worded scripts. He is known for creating ambiguous, disquieting but entertaining narratives which rely on late 1940s and 50s Hollywood film noirs, Buster Keaton and Alfred Hitchcock, melodramatic detective novels and television situation comedies. Although many of Charlesworth’s subjects and characters are borrowed from mass-media entertainment, his themes are very much those of the contemporary visual artist – irony, autobiography, composition, a complex and indirect structure of meaning, and shifting relations between levels of reality.
The Gallery 400 exhibition presents a sampler of Bruce Charlesworth’s recent work. Mauna Loa, a 1983 installation reconstructed in Gallery 400, invoked the imminent eruption and ensuing terror caused by the Hawaiian volcano. Twelve cibachrome photographs from the Trouble series distilled many of Charlesworth’s themes into individually charged images. As in all his work, the artist played the hapless, anxious anti-hero; the radio, the television, the convertible roadster, and the suburban house served as recurring icons in this world-out-of-whack. Three videotapes transported the viewer into a universe in which surveillance, interrogation, imprisonment, natural disasters, and changes in identity figured prominently.