Lili Dujourie

Lili Dujourie is an artist whose work has consistently belied appearances by reversing our expectations of the media used. In this exhibition, which included pieces made with fabric, granite, mirror, and steel, she challenged the viewer to go beyond the work’s facade and to penetrate its inherent ambiguity. American Imperialism, 1972, is an important early work. In a pale white room, one section of the wall is painted red. Leaning against it is a black steel plate. The piece simultaneously ignites and deadens the room with its magnification and negation of color. Its reference to American Minimalist art is particularly apt in the way the piece dominates and transforms its surrounding space. If the art object can be defined in relation to its spatial context, the reverse may also be true. This is a piece that constantly engenders relationships—of size, scale, space, and color—in order to produce an abundance of signs and interpretations.

In an adjoining room, within a square-shaped structure in the middle of the space, Dujourie positioned a series of mirrors and fabrics in a piece entitled Between Black and Pink, 1986. The fabrics are wound around a wheel in the front of the box, while the mirrors reflect their colors (pink, purple, green, red, black) into a deep, seemingly endless space. The title alludes to an indeterminate zone, a zone between extremes of color. The reflected images are shattered in the mirrors and become almost labyrinthine in appearance. As in American Imperialism, relationships between different aspects of the work come into play. While it deals with different aspects of color and form, Between Black and Pink produces a simulacrum in which object and image are in a state of perpetual displacement.

Two smaller works in the exhibition—Paris, 1987, and Untitled, 1988—utilize granite and mirror to produce similar results. Paris is constructed like a small altarpiece. Placed between two pieces of stone is a mirror; in front of it stands a stone sculpture of a hand holding a ball. Both mirror and figure have a supple quality that is opposed to the austere appearance of the granite affixed to the gallery wall. Untitled presents a mirror placed inside a slit in the stone above the viewer’s head. Dujourie locates a sort of fissure in the object, a reworking of its own terms whereby solidity becomes interchangeable with intangibility.

When one examines the relationships and contradictions that Dujourie has set up within the context of each particular piece, these smaller works seem less successful. The differences that are established between materials are more reductive and less open-ended than in the larger pieces. Mirror/stone, reflection/reality, original/copy—these notions are carried only as far as they are able to establish their own antithetical qualities; the synthesis that results in the larger works is lacking here. Those pieces reveal Dujourie’s strengths: when Between Black and Pink subverts its own pictorial effects through its kaleidoscopic multiplication of color, it achieves a seductive and distancing effect. The closer one is drawn to the piece, the more complex it appears.

Michael Tarantino