Monday, September 29, 2008

Jean-Pierre Gauthier at Akron Art Museum

Last week I was introduced to an artist new to me at an opening at the Akron Art Museum: Jean-Pierre Gauthier. I guess I should have been more familiar with him as he shows at the very tony and well-known gallery, Jack Shainman. Still, this was his very first North American museum show, so perhaps I can be forgiven for not knowing his work already. I encourage you to go to his website and look at the installation shots and videos. Mr. Gauthier creates complex, 3-dimensional, cross disciplinary works that defy written description. It's best to just look.
Jean-Pierre Gauthier website. (Watch the installation process on the Akron Art Museum website.)

Walking through the exhibit, I was struck by how often I was thinking of other artists. Mr. Gauthier is certainly an original and unique artist, yet the range of my associations was intriguing to me. I share them for others' thoughts or discussions.

My first association was to artists who, like Mr. Gauthier are from Montreal or have worked in there including Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Alexandre Castonguay, and Karilee Fuglem.

My association with Lozano-Hemmer's work is that both are creating environments that have an interface between humans and technology. I like the way both artists use the viewer to influence/create the work. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's website

The other two artists I mentioned both show at Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain. I saw both during my visit to Mois de Photo in Montreal this time last year. Alexandre Castonguay's "Drawing by numbers" bears distinct parallels to "Uncertainty Markers" of Mr. Gauthier. I quote here from the Ouelette website:
In Drawing by Numbers , a wall-mounted plotter lightly engraves participant's images. The drawings are based on the image analysis of visitor's movements, retaining their outlines. They are registered when people make gestures that are close enough to the coded gestures that are often characteristic of interactive art installations and of the usage of portable electronic devices.

So, in the same way the "Uncertainty Markers" uses sound to control a device that leave the traces of that sound on a wall, "Drawing by Numbers" uses photo technology to do the same thing. I would love to see both in the same show.

Karilee Fuglem is a more ephemeral link to me. Both artists use found and everday objects in their constructions, but they subvert the object's original intended use for artistic means. I also find some parallels in the the fact that both artists explore a world that is almost beyond perception. Again I quote from the gallery website:
Karilee Fuglem is interested in revealing that which is invisible at first sight. Using translucent, delicate and supple materials, she can make the air we breathe and the space we are living in tangible. The magic of Karilee Fuglem's installations, drawings and photographs comes from an aesthetic approaching nothingness, where negligible elements, such as bubblegum, dust, plastic bags and nylon thread, are charged with unforeseen potential.

With Ms Fuglem, I would include the sculptural works of Thorsten Brinkmann in my list of associations. I've spoken a few times about Mr. Brinkmann's photography, but I've spent less time noting his clever and engaging scultural work made out of found objects. I relate these especially to Mr. Gauthier's "Remue-Ménage", "The Janitor's Break", and "Le Cagibi". Brinkmann's sculpture at Kunstagenten.

Including Mr. Castonguay, I thought about other artists who have made wall drawings. There is a Sol LeWitt on the AAM wall downstairs, but I was strongly reminded of the amazing DIA show of LeWitt wall drawings 2 years ago. In Mr. Gauthier's "Uncertainty Markers" piece, a machine makes the marks on the wall rather than a team of humans operating under strict instructions. But this work shares with LeWitt's a careful limiting of scope in order to make marks and patterns on a wall for temporary and conceptual effect. They are both circumscribed in every possible sense of the word.

Is it too wimsical to invoke the sculpture of Alexander Calder? The sense of serious play and playful seriousness combines with the artists sharing a use of asymmetrical geometry hanging in three dimensional space. Maybe it's a reach but I like the idea.

Last, and not least, I was reminded of the installations of Monika Sosnowska and Iole de Freitas. These works simultaneously invade and take over the spaces they inhabit while also describing the idea of what a line describes in space. I'm thinking especially of Mr. Gauthier's works "Chant de Travail"and "Échotriste".
Iole de Freitas' website
Monica Sosnowska

I hope my ruminations on artistic associations provides some food for thought and discussion on this artist. I find the work to be excellent and thought provoking on its own. I hope these few links will only add to appreciation of the work. I have ignored the musical inspirations that Mr. Gauthier, himself, cites. Chief among these are John Cage. I feel that the viewer would find his way to this in any case, and, if not, Mr. Gauthier is there to suggest it. Comments welcomed.....

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