Maria Marshall's work layers corrupt adult behavior onto the assumed innocence of childhood, revealing the childish desires supporting "mature" culture. For this exhibition, Gallery 400 presented two films: When I Grow Up I Want to be a Cooker (1998), a densely montaged film that exists almost exclusively in the realm of the close-up, and Once Up On (1999), which relies heavily on the location of a schoolyard. Gallery 400 also presented a new series of six rarely exhibited cibachrome photographs entitled This game goes on forever till it falls off.
When I Grow Up I Want to Be a Cooker is a 20-second video of a little boy smoking a cigarette. He sucks on the cigarette, deeply inhales and luxuriantly blows out smoke rings. For twenty seconds he blows rings, filling the entire frame with smoke, and then the cycle starts again. Although visually convincing to the point of disturbing its viewers, this video was created through digital manipulation. Marshall digitized film of her son playing with a toy cigarette, mixed it with footage of smoking adults, and finally manipulated the smoke rings using special effects. Due to the quality of the film and the elegance of the digitalization, Marshall's video is lush, intimate, and sensual. The boy seduces our gaze and returns it unequivocally in what appears to be a disconcerting endorsement of corruption.
Marshall's newest work, Once Up On, focused on a children's playground photographed from a Dutch angle. Once digitalized, Marshall removed the frames that did not include people, and then distorted the speed of the action. The recorded events, which include children's games and other typical playlot activities, race by, while voice-over narration recounts a militarized, discordant reinterpretation of The Three Little Pigs through a child's eyes.
Selections from a very recent series of photographic works by Marshall were included in the exhibition. These images, of multiple children sitting behind a table with various table settings and scenes, play to both the history of painting and to that of photography.
Maria Marshall was born in Bombay in 1966 and currently lives and works in London. This was her first exhibition in the Midwest.