Being there

By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  February 22, 2006

JARRING A German soldier imagined by Stephen Jacobs.The Civil War isn’t the only one revisited by re-enactors, nor the only period depicted here. David Graham’s color photographs are all over the historical map, from Marie Antoinette at a Bastille Day parade in Philadelphia to mannequins of Rhett and Scarlett at a Pasadena film museum. The lack of significant historical resonance makes these the least interesting contributions in the show. Nevertheless, a bizarre delight is his photo of rifle-toting, life-size plastic soldiers in camouflage crawling over football sidelines at an Army-Navy game.

More interesting are the Revolutionary War and Mohawk re-enactors captured by Lauren Piperno. In one, British troops march toward a three-masted schooner, not a telephone or power line in sight; in another, three Indians in battle dress and war paint stand armed in an urban setting, for surreal contrast. Here and there a striking face grabs our attention and is reluctant to let go, such as David Murcko’s portrait of someone playing Gen. George Armstrong Custer, caught close-up and meditative. But perhaps the most jarring series here is that of German World War II soldiers, by Stephen Jacobs. Seeing a young Waffen SS soldier relaxing in a field tent in New Hampshire and a Panzer Grenadier platoon sprawled in a Massachusetts forest makes this whole re-enactment enterprise as visceral as good theater.

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