Friday, March 21, 2008

Art Opening at the SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art OIkos/Habitacles

These scenes are typical of Couturier's work on San Diego (these are not the ones in the exhibit). These are from the lawrence miller gallery.

SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art in the Bellgo building is hosting the first of a two part show entitled OIKOS/Habitacles curated by Sylvain Campeau. This outstanding exhibit focuses on the subject of landscape. Traditionally, the landscape is treated as a subject of contemplation, where the artist is separate and removed. The landscape does not change by the artist’s presence, and his (or her) presence is transient. The artwork is a transient view of an eternal object.

OIKOS/Habitcules is interested in the intrusion of the artist on landscape, as well as the melding of nature with manmade constructions. These photographs, some digitally altered, present three different approaches to the subject of landscape and do so with challenging and exciting results.

Isabelle Hayeur’s (Canada) three pieces are digital photographs, enlarged and altered to create “new and improbable” landscapes. Jour/Nuit seems a subtle nod to Magritte’s L’Empire des Lumieres, a surreal image of a house at night, with a blue sky beyond. In Hayeur’s image, a winter stand of trees, just at the end of fall, obscures the view of a row of houses still lit from the previous night along a lake. The colorless, bright sky, is touched with the reddish colors of the sun’s arrival (or perhaps departure). Cathedrale and Complicite are equally fascinating. In Cathedrale, a forest grove of trees on an irregular landscape is melded with metal poles that are camouflaged by the tree trunks. Complicite contrasts a spiral, metal stairway with a tall young tree. The juxtaposition of the natural and the manmade allows the viewer to contemplate the timelessness of the living wood and metal. Both rot and decay eventually, yet both seem to exist beyond our own lives.

Stephane Coutourier’s (France) Diptych on San Diego resemble photos of gigantic dioramas, though in fact the viewer is looking at photographs of new suburban developments with the lifeless, but ever changing, desert in the background. The imposition of man on his landscape, his need to live at a frontier and ever extend it, is implicit in the photos. Coutourier captures how the suburban structures force a generic, American life upon the barrenness and pristine vigor of the desert as well. These exciting photos demand one contemplate how man dominates and changes his landscape.

Finally, the more subtle series of untitled bunkers by Mark Ruwedel (US) brings together a series of black and white photos of cement structures set into various landscapes around the world. Much like Coutourier, Ruwedel captures the interplay between the manmade and the natural. Though, unlike Coutourier, the vigor and dominance of man is decreased. The crumbling, empty bunkers that seem defined as much by their empty interiors as by their long lasting cement are hardly an example of man’s triumph. Rather, the impression is of long, gradual decay in a landscape that changes seasonally, but lasts eternally. Furthermore, the wide varieties of locations where the bunkers come form imply that the desire of man to build himself into nature, as well as his inability to sustain his creations, is universal. Among the photos, the bunkers of the Mojave Desert, Devil’s Side, and Halifax stand out.for their unique shapes and particular solitude.

I eagerly await the second part of this exhibit, which brings together the work of three more artists who address landscape in innovative ways as well.

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