Long Beach

Frank Gillette

University Art Museum (UAM) at California State University

Aransas, an installation of six-channel video and SX-70 photosets by Frank Gillette, is an approach to landscape grounded in both observational strategy and intuitive process. Using 34 locations in Aransas, a seemingly uninhabited area of Texas comprised of bays, tidal flats, prairies and seashore, the artist randomly selected axis points for videotaping within the region. However, once the axis points were arbitrarily determined, camera angles were defined through strict numerical systems. In selecting the axis point, and then shooting out from that coordinate, the artist placed himself within the landscape—not the traditional observer peering in, but a practitioner looking out.

In editing, the sequences were temporally orchestrated, time made to function as a visual adjunct to color and composition. Although Gillette relied on conventional camera techniques—pans, close-ups and tracking shots, his most expressive devices were time and placement. In this manner, editing of the sequences neither duplicates the artist’s experience nor reveals any real time considerations. Instead, the final tapes are timed with the same type of structural considerations intrinsic to the camera placement strategies.

In the museum installation, the six monitors in a circular configuration persuade the viewer to move while watching the monitors; not to participate in a stationary cinematic presentation, but to experience the images as an operational paradigm for the actual environment.

Unlike the video installation, in which Gillette’s observational strategies are only discernible through supplementary written material, the photosets display their visual methodologies with extreme clarity. While the video relies on time and memory, the photosets are coded into space, either through selection of content or determination of specific event. The SX-70s are set into grids of as few as 10 components or as many as 130 separate elements. Some of the systems are simple, the cataloguing of the red bloom from a calla lily, or a composite of tree tops. Other sets are time/space delineations—tide lines or a shadow progression from the spring equinox. Because of their scale and organization, the photosets are more immediately accessible than the video, their relationship to traditional photographic perceptions of the landscape and current conceptual practices making this kind of coding already familiar.

Gillette’s installation directs viewer perception of the landscape away from any conventional or illusory experience, and toward fragments or modules of content constructed into structures based on observational strategy. Implicit in this work is a concern for metaphorless imagery and a visual specificity that subordinates stylistic concern to content. Aransas is visually demanding, a simplicity arrived at through some very complex means. But it offers a new perception of the landscape, and most importantly reaffirms consideration of the natural realm in an urban/technological era.

Hal Fischer