Oct 31st 2009

Scott Treleaven and Josh Azzarella: Untitled #100 (Fantasia)

@ Kavi Gupta Gallery

835 W Washington Blvd, Chicago, IL 60607

Opening Saturday, October 31st, from 5PM - 8PM

On view through Saturday, December 5th

Scott Treleaven‘s current exhibit memorializes the beautiful delirium of the 19th-century psychocultural impetus to capture the ephemeral – that which throbs just beneath the scrim of consciousness or skin, via travelogue, spirit photography, or film paraphernalia. Viewers engage with uncanny dioramas of spirit and corpus that unveil the foreignness of landscapes inner and outer. Refusing the smug muscularity of traditional self/other, artist/muse epistemologies, the exhibit creates illumination through obliquity, while agency becomes an illusion of static-free perceptual transparency. Its images reveal the poignant fetishism that converts bone, severed organ, or shard into a saintly relic suggesting a beloved whole that only ever flowers elsewhere; ways in which we all transform the meager specimen into Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs.

Uncovering the secret multivalence of European cities, constructed as much by projections of transients as by phantasmatic legacies of their own cultural histories, Treleaven’s ink and collage drawing of the Palais Royal’s urban gardens are nightscapes that yield tenuous epiphanies, shadow plays of pleasure and/or peril. The Arrangement, a table-top vitrine filled with photos, drawings and handmade books, invokes curiosity cabinets, naturalist’s and traveler’s diaries, embossed photographs, the embalming arc of museum glass. Hinting at Joseph Cornell’s shadow boxes, its incantations are no less magical than those of The Passenger’s grimoire. Sitting as part of an installation triptych, its aesthetic of fragmentation via collage of stock and personal “footage” reveals the fault lines of memory, projection, and fetishism, mapping ambiguous journeys, occult communion, and liaisons. A rabbit emerges from a top hat floating between watercolour blood red curtains and abattoir-stage, questioning agency as magical acts erupt of their own volition.

A tight array of photographic collages swim on the surface of an 18th century hand mirror that becomes lunar orb, spyglass, crystal ball, portal, eyeball, lens, orifice. Its frame is transcended by a landscape that refutes art’s capacity for totalizing vision, while exploring representational horizons that elude the literal. Illumination, like the totemic fragment, is only synecdochal to an absent whole; enigmatic scenarios float with the indeterminacy of images glimpsed in dreams or through keyholes at penny arcades, projected by magic lanterns.

Complementarily, the film Back + Forth‘s ephemeral orbs hover overhead like Odilon Redon’s eyeball, enacting a gossamer, sinister haunting. Their seemingly random crossings simulate fleeting sense-memories indistinguishable from dreamed or imagined moments, apparitions “caught” by spirit photographers.

In Last 7 Words, the camera choreographs a golden-haired figure’s repeated gesture in synaesthetic correspondance with music by Chicago’s own Locrian. The perfect medium, she channels our concerns with translating experience from one realm to the next, and what, or which phantom travelers, are lost or gained in this passage.

[Josh Azzarella‘s] new video Untitled #100 (Fantasia) 2007- 2009 makes a departure from his former use of historic press images to augment what is likely the 20th century’s greatest pop cultural phenomenon, Michael Jackson’s Thriller. As a work that was created over a nearly three year process it predates the star’s passing and marks Azzarella’s most ambitious project to date.

Reconstructing each scene three-dimensionally, Azzarella seamlessly matches the landscape’s grain, movement, and lighting in order to remove Jackson and his entourage. What remains is simply gray mist rolling slowly through a graveyard, forest landscapes lit only by a foggy moonlight, and rows of empty dilipidated storefronts. Without the king of pop and his entourage out on the midnight prowl, the affect of the images is brought to the foreground and the video’s spectacular drama is erased. Each shot shows itself to be a mundane landscape, suggesting that such unnatural events have or could occur anywhere. With the spectacular performance so absent, the macabre scenes become hauntingly romantic.

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