In a group show, it is reassuring to be confronted with expertise and experience, and it speaks volumes that the Amory Center for the Arts can draw from a pool of  established contemporary artists like Kim Abeles, Daniel Buren, Bruce Nauman, Ed Ruscha, Betty Saar, and Pae White, to name only a handful of the twenty artists who have all previously created work for the organization, to commission new site-specific works and installations to celebrate their 20th Anniversary year. Furthermore, while eight of the works are off-site installations and performances (from bike-powered chandeliers to skywriting), the central exhibit at the Armory makes excellent use of the gallery space – including a narrow utility room where Saar creates a dream-like ambiance with a suspended filmy black dress, a canoe skeleton, and an iron-wrought chair lit by blue neon. Many of the works are in their own room, and not just the video installations, eking out a surprisingly labyrinthine feel and substantive presentation from a standard white cube.

Abeles and Ken Marchionno make canny use of their space, papering a room with digitally drawn wallpaper. All the elements of a bedroom are drawn in black outline on the walls – shelves, furniture, posters – but in place of the TV and computer screens, picture frames, and even in some of the drawn spaces in the wallpaper design, real video clips and photos of horses and Indians are peep through. The contrast between the color images and the black lines catches the viewer’s eye, and the smaller scale (most of the images are index card-sized) invites the viewer to approach for closer examination. The voyeuristic desire to explore somebody else’s bedroom is activated as the viewer moves along the wall trying to make sense of the scenes of galloping herds and teepee building. Of course, the screen playing Disney’s Pocahontas offers a broad hint: the viewer is meant to question his own perceptions of Native Americans in today’s culture, and handily, those questions arise naturally through the juxtaposition of the various clips and photographs.

Other works are equally deft; 21st century reincarnations of art movements past,  two works cast a long look back at Conceptual Art of the late sixties and early seventies. Nauman’s untitled piece was originally proposed in 1969 and was actualized for the first time this year as the skywriting “LEAVE THE LAND ALONE.” For those who missed the September 12 noon performance, the video documentation at the Armory serves nearly as well to give goose flesh. As Mel Bochner once described it, ideal conceptual art could be described and experienced in its description and infinitely repeated. That Nauman’s never before realized work could land so neatly upon its feet thirty years later, and look so remarkably timely is testimony to Nauman’s prescience. Not only is this piece a classic in every sense, but Nauman manages to walk the talk as well, following the national park credo of living lightly: Take only pictures and leave only footprints.

Buren survives the passage of time nearly as nimbly. Recalling his striped posters in the streets and metros of his youth, several thousand small striped flags serve to form a colorful canopy at One Colorado Courtyard. Although the scavenger hunt nature of chasing down the art venues from the exhibition brochure and the small sign at the entrance to the courtyard belie Buren’s anonymous signature, the rainbow-hued fluttering flags still manage to appear in and out of place in front of the large Crate and Barrel sign (Amory Center for the Arts, Pasadena).

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