“Breathe, Walk, Look” offers a rare occasion for American viewers to encounter Michel Verjux’s light-based works. The last such opportunity was in 1997, when exhibitions took place at Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery and at Xavier LaBoulbene in New York. Six pieces by the Paris-based artist now fill the Dallas Contemporary’s vast, rugged, and chilly space, while an additional work is installed on Elm Street downtown. Akin to his previous output, each work is titled in French (the artist prefers not to include English translations) and features a bright light projected from a single source that scans across a solid object and casts its silhouette on a wall. A large area of intense illumination surrounds the item’s shadow.
In each projection, the light source, object, and wall combine to define a hollowed-out cone of light in which the viewer’s body may intervene; approached in another way, each component may individually claim a viewer’s attention. For example, the two upturned tables used to cast the shadows in Deux portes (découpes de tables) (all works 2011) are lit up with theatrical brilliance, in vivid yellow and knotty wood grain, respectively. Tableau (découpe d’escalier), which by the artist’s normal standards is a work of practically baroque complexity, presents a latticelike shadow of a diagonally placed metal stair unit surrounded by a halo of light.
The very silence of the exhibition space invites a Cagean attention to the matter of the light projectors that power the works––they emit the heat (and the smell) of hardworking devices. If visitors are put to rest by the Euclidean purity of the shapes traced through the air and onto the walls, at the same time they are energized by the sense of power that courses through the equipment (in the form of electrons) and radiates outward from it (in the form of photons). Having less concern with the cinematic than Anthony McCall’s otherwise comparable cones of light, Verjux’s output, in its reductive stringency, recalls the work of his close historical relatives Niele Toroni and Daniel Buren.