Maya Eizin

Galleri 16

Now that the transparency of Modernism has been replaced by the opacity of post-Modernism, and the world has been described by Jean Baudrillard as “a shattered windshield,” it seems as if the most versatile metaphor for our fractal, un-surveyable condition would be the fold. By being only partly visible, only partially accessible, and thus not totally controllable, the fold allows a retreat from the panopticon of modern society. The fold is not only a locus of secrecy, a refuge for evading an unfolding gaze, but an object of erotic desire. In this exhibition of Maya Eizin’s work, opacity, folds, Baroque and Rococo painting play important roles. Eizin refers to her works as “paintings,” but they are not painted images; rather, they are images of paintings. Eizin photographs reproductions of 17th-century Dutch still lifer and Watteau paintings. Cropped and enlarged, this appropriated imagery is placed next to photographs of beautifully draped silk tissues, enlargements of fragments from magazines, and anonymously sprayed, red-and-black geometric patterns. Eizen combines the various elements into filmic sequences and places them onto large panels, lacquering the surfaces to give them a perfect, glossy finish. Consecutive but not narrative, sensuous without being tactile, these panels frustrate our desire for a coherent meaning, for a stable referent. Like a kind of semiotic wreckage, the works resist a deciphering that they themselves so insolently seem to depend upon.

In spite of their allegorical, opaque structure, it would be too simplistic to regard Eizin’s camera-based works merely as allegories, in the sense suggested by Walter Benjamin. They should, I think, be regarded as meta-allegories, as representations of an allegorical condition—in ourselves, in art, and in society at large. In The Mind of a Fool, 1988, Eizen juxtaposes a rephotographed face of a young Pierrot figure—originally a fragment of a Watteau painting—with a photograph of horizontal swathes of silk. The two pictures are held together by a broad black frame. To their right, hanging by itself, is an intensely red square—a sign of seclusion and marginalized absoluteness. The work creates a secret, irrational connection between the calm, blank folds and the melancholic, noncomprehending gaze of the young boy. Without being nostalgic, this gaze conveys a strong feeling of loss and disorientation. At the same time, the erotic tension of Watteau’s perfumed dreamworlds is suspended and transformed into chaste coolness. Maya Eizin’s art may seem decadent. But the question is: to whom does this decadence belong? Did Watteau’s decadence belong to his paintings or to the aristocracy, whose carefree existence they so poetically described?

Lars O. Ericsson