Alexandre Gherban

Eric Fabre Gallery

Alexandre Gherban is a young artist who trained in formal logic and music before investigating the problematic borders of conceptualism in the visual arts. In this sense he is a most relevant figure, indicating the inconsistencies in the work of a wide range of the more or less brilliant amateurs whose provocative dilettantism affects a serious part of the Paris and London art scenes nowadays, and who can be considered as a European issue of graffiti, new wave, or punk art. These mostly French and British object-makers seem to have a little more sense of humor than the German and Italian painterly dilettanti, though not enough for making a joke of the work itself. A touch of puritan ambition always remains as a “will for art” in their bricolages.

In this context, Gherban presented a show that consisted mostly in bringing forward this touch of seriousness. The first surprising thing in his show was the scale of the works presented. No more gadgets or little objects, and no outrageous monumentalism or kitschy settings, either. If it is hard to say whether these works are “good” or not, that does not affect their quality but poses mostly the problem of the criteria. After the context-related work of the past twenty years, Gherban now seems to question context itself in relation to any kind of work. Its arbitrariness, its gratuitousness, its emptiness, are no longer ideological options but rather are physical issues.

The mental structure that supported this operation was that of a performing artist who executes a score not with brilliance but with accuracy. The stage was not filled with virtuoso tricks: no special lighting, no attitudes or pretension. A strange sense of quietness, of measure, calm, and balance, accompanied this moment of mature reflexion. The issues of arbitrariness, gratuitousness, and emptiness were here in a human scale. The paradigm of the works is no longer sculpture or architecture but their opposite, the irrelevance of a geometrical constitution of space and the inconsistency of the logical definition of construction and form. There is more, though, than an epistemological acceptance of a special kind of irrelevancy as such, more than negativism or criticism, There is a positive measure of phantasy in the serene display of art making. Gherban does not make something from nothing (or for nothing) but makes do with nothing and keeps doing. In opposition to any formalist Modernism, these pieces are not the fragments of an anatomically dismembered body but self-sufficient measures of a musical score that can contain any kind of instrument, any kind of frequency or tone. In order to perceive it, however, it has to be played. In opposition to all that record market that floats in the galleries, Gherban comes with his banjo.

Denys Zacharopoulos