Gallerynote 1/2010

March 20 to May 8, 2010

In Place of Love   Glen Rubsamen (1957* Hollywood USA)
"What is laid upon us is to accomplish the negative; the positive is already given." Franz Kafka – The Zurau Aphorisms.

The dark silhouettes – primarily of palms and other trees, plants and shrubs but also occasionally of traffic lights, cranes, floodlight masts, mobile phone antennas and of modern sculptures and postmodern architecture – rise upward and stretch out into open skies. These skies are atmospherically discolored, or have just emerged from this phase. Moments of transition, twilight or dawn whose exotic potency makes them worthy of being recorded. The lens of a camera doubtlessly edged its way in there, contributing to the manner in which exaggeration and banality meet up in the works. In fact, the camera is an indispensable tool in the hands of Glen Rubsamen. All over the world, he uses it to collect his subjects and he combines, samples and mutates these into curious sceneries. The way he places the subjects into the compositional framework, how these behave vis-à-vis the framing, the edges of the picture, attests to a highly differentiated mise-en-scène. This dramaturgy constitutes the true poetics of Glen Rubsamen’s pictorial language, a dramaturgy that avoids being noticed and seeming as though things have been arranged or situated. The viewer is assigned a certain location, even a function. Most of the time, he has to fix his gaze upward with a sectional cutout pushed underneath, as if through a lens, beyond which the eye cannot see. The impotent undertaking of capturing this potent atmosphere must necessarily fail. The subjects appear to be randomly combined remnants, relegated to their place through the artifice of human behavior. Precisely this social definition of a landscape that synchronizes man as an inhabitant and as a tourist, but also as an exploiter and voyeur, is what allows the pictorial subjects to rigidify into ambiguous signs. Connoting them negatively or positively is a question of the viewpoint. When the viewpoint remains open, it has to do with the good will or the guilefulness of the observer – with the viewpoint being fixed in the latter case. The horizon, sometimes just barely still visible, sometimes out of the field of view, more or less coincides with the lower border of the painting. The fact that a horizon does not occur in the real world but is an inescapable product, a contrivance of human perception, is one of the thrusts of the image construction. And seeing behind things is not something we are capable of either. With our knowledge, with assumptions and presumptions, these black silhouettes can be complemented and completed. A foreground is not offered by these works. As viewers, we find ourselves in this very zone which is absent in the image and become accomplices.

An intensification of this aspect of Glen Rubsamen’s strategy is offered by the large-scale installation "In Place of Love". His sense for cunning ambiguity places us in an ambiance between studiolo and travel agency. Many motifs intrigue those who enter. Printed on a mirrored surface, the forms of the quadratic images seem to disengage from the pictorial plane and suggest a false depth. Harmless harmony or poisoned dreams? The center of the installation contains a closed door. What lies behind it remains inaccessible.


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Sol LeWitt
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Yale University Art Gallery und Williams College Museum of Art