You There!
Welcome to Donald Rumsfeld's war machine
by Jerry Saltz
April 7th, 2006 2:19 PM

post to
post to furl

Disaster City
photo: Julie Paul Gallery
Paul Shambroom
Julie Saul Gallery
Through May 13
I am almost totally put off by the fact that Paul Shambroom prints many of his color photographs on canvas. Not because he's treading on ground occupied by painting, a non-issue if ever there was one. I am turned off because the canvas undercuts the directness, seriousness, and clarity of his investigative vision. Seeing Shambroom's pictures on canvas makes his work ingratiating, garish, and hokey, and diminishes the probing uncertainty of this artist's vision.

Five of the smaller pictures in Shambroom's impressive show are printed on photographic paper. Too bad he didn't do this with the larger pictures, which form the centerpiece of this exhibition. In his latest series, titled "Security," this 45-year-old from Minneapolis, whose pictures of underground nuclear facilities stood out in the lackluster 2000 Whitney Biennial, presents a series of John Singer Sargent˝meets˝John Ashcroft portraits of emergency workers, SWAT teams, bomb squad members, search-and-rescue professionals, and hazardous-material-response teams. Each figure is outfitted in full, often brand-new regalia. The uniforms and the equipment create fetishized worlds unto themselves: Geiger counters, bomb detonators, infrared-vision cameras, fire suits. All display prominent brand names and logos. These soldiers of disaster are also walking billboards.

Shambroom's pictures depict the convergence of capitalism, citizenship, and paranoia. They seem to say, "Welcome to Donald Rumsfeld's war machine." He has the eagle eye and levelheaded skill to bring this message to the forefront, even if he's still misguidedly printing these otherwise gripping pictures on canvas.
send a letter to the editor

More by Jerry Saltz
The Lion in Minter
A onetime scourge of art critics stages a triumphant comeback

Space Odysseys
Imagining the future for two great institutions: Dia and the New Museum

A postmodern retinal blast of color and texture
Mindy Shapero

Only Disconnect
Places on the edge of language that the world can't strip away

Time Machine
Viewing the Lower East Side through a slow-motion lens