New York

Jean Le Gac

John Gibson Gallery

In his show of captioned photographs, Jean Le Gac is concerned with “watching himself act” through word and image reconstructions of living memory. His narrative sequences accrete the personal in experience. They rely on evocative photographs, second-person address, and his artisthood to appeal. 

His language is dense, fraught with constructions as faulty in English as they must have been in French. It is easy to denigrate his expositions as a species of French literary pedantry; perhaps it is more productive to view them (since they are in a gallery and conjoined with photographs) as pictorial in a way that much English and American Conceptual work is not. 

One series, The Painter, implies as a pictorial context for much of his work a kind of cognitive expressionist landscape: nature as a pretext for inner images. One series reveals Le Gac’s Satre-like transformation of common experiences of nature into extreme situations that test him, tests he either declines to take or fails to pass. Le Gac confronts a pond twice in this series, seeing it as harboring in its depths a whitish thing like a presence out of H. P. Lovecraft and, once again, as a drowning place. A hole in a tree, the distant stacks of a crematorium—all are objects that keep him “alive in the fear” of death. 

Le Gac reaches a compromise with death in one bourgeois image—a family photograph—which he couches in Classical terms, explaining that he might like to have it engraved on his tombstone in the manner of a Roman stele. In much of the rest of his work, Le Gac travels alone to confront strange landscapes, and with his children to reconfront familiar ones. 

Alan Moore