Cinema Remixed and Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image Since 1970 at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art feels like walking into a labyrinthine David Lynch film. Like Inland Empire or Lost Highway, womblike rooms and shadowed hallways open like Chinese boxes to reveal hidden secrets. Spelman's imaginative installation employs darkness, deep blue walls and a string of small viewing rooms, which provide a refreshing break from the usual white walls and antiseptic spaces where video work often appears. Those choices show the rewards of striving for an ambiance in some ways more "cinematic" than "art world."
Cinema Remixed blends generations and approaches, from the funny, pop-culture savvy work of Jessica Ann Peavy to the earthy, documentary-style approach of Camille Billops. Billops' 1987 "Older Women and Love" features matter-of-fact but subversive interviews with women of a certain age who speak frankly about their sexuality.
In many ways the divisions of the work, between video art and experimental film, will interest only the kind of people who like to keep their peas and their spaghetti from touching on the plate. The interconnections and conversations between certain artists and certain works extend beyond those classifications. For example, Carrie Mae Weems, Kara Walker and Jocelyn Taylor, despite being from the fine-art realm, engage with the history of cinema in works that reference Fellini, Walt Disney and Jean-Luc Godard. Though classed in the "experimental" wing of the gallery, Billops' work would make just as much sense next to Howardena Pindell's confessional "Free, White and 21" from 1980.
By the standards of today's multichannel, elliptical, high-def video art, Pindell's work about her everyday encounters with racism can seem fusty and didactic. But it's also one of the most grounded and vivid works in a show that moves between the edgy conceptualism of younger artists and the hilarious straight-talking of old-guard wits such as Adrian Piper. Cinema Remixed finds despair but also levity, and implies that there are many, many rooms left to explore, some of which will be featured in the exhibition's second part, opening Jan. 24.
Cinema Remixed and Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image Since 1970. Through Dec. 8. $3 suggested donation. Tues.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sat., noon-4 p.m. Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, 350 Spelman Lane. 404-270-5607. email@example.com.