Credit John Berens/303 Gallery
303 GALLERY through May 25; 555 West 21st Street, 303gallery.com.
Doug Aitken has stepped back from the large video spectacles for which he is known to make a small one, “New Era.” It occupies a hexagonal space that alternates wall-size mirrors and video screens, often to great kaleidoscopic effect. It centers on Martin Cooper, now 89, who as an engineer at Motorola invented the mobile phone and on April 3, 1973, placed the first mobile-phone call, from a street in Manhattan. His voice-over proceeds from an initial optimism that the world might become one, to observations about aging and technology that seem more like a lament. Mr. Aitken’s camera takes in vast stretches of barren terrain and highway cloverleafs. He also manipulates images of the original phone’s keypad, creating patterns resembling housing developments that turn deliriously hallucinatory. In keeping with Mr. Cooper’s darkening view, there is a prevailing sense of isolation and anonymity, alternating with breathtaking beauty, especially of the earth itself.