Jean Marc Bustamente

Joost Declercq

Jean Marc Bustamente presented here a series of works structured around the notion of the game, or play. Each of the six works (all are untitled, 1989) is organized according to a set of rules. It is in the transgression of these rules that Bustamente alters the parameters within which the works are perceived.

Four pieces were on view in the large gallery. Similar in their uses of color (orange) and material (steel), all four employ strategies of both painting and sculpture. Each plays with notions of depth, scale, and perspective. In one work, a rectangular box of painted orange steel is bisected by two chrome pipes. Acting as a framing device, these pipes divide the pictorial space into three sections. In throwing the piece’s initial balance out of proportion, they create a new series of relationships in which two- and three-dimensional spaces overlap. Another piece features a grid of orange-painted steel slats over glass. The work encompasses two patterns: a grid composed of four lines and a cross that is superimposed over its center. Combining references to both Piet Mondrian and Kasimir Malevich, Bustamente both orders and disrupts pictorial space. The cross, in particular, acts as another framing device, negating the original grid while setting up a new series of coordinates.

In a work made of synthetic rubber and steel, Bustamente extends the game a bit farther. A steel plate is fixed to the wall like a shelf. Attached to it is a rubber sheet, set out from the wall and extending to the floor. Here the play with flatness and depth is most obvious. The sheet, which at first appears to be against the wall and to function as a sort of traditional picture plane, is actually dependent upon the shelf for its position. Each element posits a relationship or combination that is then put into question, creating a cumulative effect in which the fragmentary is opposed to the integral. It is, finally, the large work in the back gallery that serves as both summation and end point of the games that have previously been set into play. Composed primarily of white painted metal and mirror, the work is a paradigm of illusionism. Like the shattered mirrors in Orson Welles’ The Lady From Shanghai, 1948, which totally disorient the spectator’s narrative position, this work contextualizes the ways in which Bustamente has ordered our perception. Resembling a closet composed of a series of open boxes, the piece reveals both interior, exterior, and reflected space. The piping that extends from the wall inside the structure creates an empty, demarcated area, which contradicts the infinite space found in the mirror. The work’s pervasive whiteness, which looks severe and ascetic when opposed to the orange that dominates the other pieces, puts the perceptual leaps in greater relief. It is as if the game had been concluded, only to start again.

Michael Tarantino