NEW YORK, NY.- Artists have long engaged with the mythology of Hollywood cinema, creating a hybrid of art and cinema that has become an important strand of contemporary art. Shadow (2010, 13 ½ minutes) a video installation by Slater Bradley in collaboration with Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Ed Lachman, takes as its inspiration the unfinished Hollywood film Dark Blood (1993), which was never completed owing to the untimely death of River Phoenix near the end of the film shoot. Lachman was the films cinematographer. In the original film, Phoenix plays a disturbed young half- Navajo widower who lives like a hermit on a nuclear testing site in the Nevada desert, waiting for the apocalypse and making Navajo kachina dolls that he believes have magic powers. Phoenixs characters wife was killed by radiation from the site. A married couple travelling across the desert become stranded in their car, and are rescued by the boy, who falls in love with the woman, played by Judy Davis. The film progresses to a dramatic ending in which the boy dies. Lachman took photographs of Phoenix on set on his deathbed, but because of Phoenixs actual death, the final scene was never filmed.
Sixteen years later, Shadow constructs a prologue based on Lachmans memory and impressions of shooting the original film, that imagines the widowers life just before he meets the couple, folding into the story references to what takes place in the future in the original film. The actor Ben Brock plays Phoenix, whose ghostly presence haunts the new film. Elements of the original film the couple, the car breaking down, the attraction of the widower to the woman do not appear in Bradley and Lachmans film, and parts of their narrative the little girl, the deserted house, the bar do not appear in the original. The two narratives are woven together by threads of fact and fiction whose boundaries are never made clear. The bar in this film was the bar frequented by River Phoenix while filming the original movie, for example, and the location, near the Capital Reef in Utah, is the same as in the original film. The photographs found by the widower in this film were found by chance by Lachman and Bradley in the bar. They were taken during the original film shoot, and show Lachman and Phoenix at work. In a further twist, Brock, who plays Phoenix, bears an uncanny resemblance to Bradley. The film thus becomes a triple portrait of the actor, the cinematographer, and the artist, transforming a conventional cinematic narrative into a labyrinthine tale that blurs the boundary between illusion and reality, and past and future.
Born in 1975 in San Francisco, Slater Bradley works in painting, video, film and photography, creating a personal iconography of themes and figures to articulate an ambiguous space somewhere between reality and fiction, in which Bradleys own identity is always in question. The doppelganger is an ongoing theme in Bradleys work; Ben Brock often appears as Bradley, or as Bradley playing an iconic figure such as Kurt Cobain, Michael Jackson, or River Phoenix. Bradley participated in the 2004 Whitney Biennial in New York. Solo exhibitions include the Guggenheim Museum, New York (2005), and the Berkeley Art Museum (2005). He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Born in 1946 in Morristown, New Jersey, Ed Lachman's career as a cinematographer in both Hollywood and independent film has gained him international recognition and an Academy Award nomination. Lachman's work is marked by a commitment to a transformative vision for the director, and to revealing the motivations of both actor and character. He was cinematographer for, amongst others, Jean-Luc Godard, Wim Wenders, Bernard Bertolucci and Werner Herzog. Recent films include Todd Haynes Im Not There ( 2007), Ulrich Seidls Import Export (2007), Sofia Coppolas The Virgin Suicides (2000), Steven Soderberghs Erin Brockovich (2000), Todd Haynes Far From Heaven (2002) and Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedmans Howl (2010), as well as Laurie Simmons' first film The Music of Regret (2006). He co-directed Ken Park (2002) with Larry Clark, and published a book Chausse Trappe, in which a narrative unfolds through fictional film stills. Lachman lives in New York City.