Jean-Marc Bustamante

Locus Solus

Jean-Marc Bustamante’s pieces consistently problematize the spatial. Sometimes they are conceived in relationship to a specific space, as in the recent exhibition at the Haus Lange Museum in Krefeld, in other instances they refer to a more abstract space, as in this solo exhibition. In Krefeld, in a house designed by Mies Van der Rohe and later transformed into a museum, the artist adapted the architectural materials of the interiors—the wood of the floors and baseboard moldings, the cement of the walls—with grooves alluding to bricks, in order to foreground their relationships to the rooms they occupied. The artist animated the space, which was understood as the space of phenomena, of life, by thematizing its particular characteristics. In contrast, this show addressed the general spatial code of the art gallery on a more abstract level, and formally the work was more austere, since one was faced with a typology, rather than with phenomenology. Five different pieces represented five different ways of relating to the interior. A metal square hanging from the wall occupied the traditionally codified place of the painting; a structure on the floor next to the wall was mirrored by its own duplicate in the middle of the room, which allowed the spectator to move around it; two steps evoked the stairway and the act of climbing. This last allusion, however, was negated by a component placed diagonally on the first step, while the large dimensions of a platform that evoked a baby’s playpen finally limited one’s ability to circulate freely. The form of each work alluded to the idea of architectonic structure, to an unfinished architecture with an as yet unspecifiable function. This sense was reinforced by the materials used; what at first glance appeared to be cement, on closer inspection proved to be powdered lime mixed with resin. The metal listels that surround, cover, frame, and complicate the works, are also treated with red oxide paint mixed with wax. In other words, the process does not cease to be artistic; it remains quite separate from real life or work. With respect to these realities, the work functions as an ambiguous proposition. It is a mise-en-scène, but not a simulation. It does not end at the level of fiction, but is articulated within the realm of allusion. Most of Bustamante’s pieces, and almost all those shown here, are entitled Paysage (Landscape; all works 1990), and they refer to a horizon that transcends their finitude and destabilizes their meanings. The work sets up a comparison between its own artistic nature and what remains extra-artistic and exists beyond it. This dichotomous structure achieves resonance at the level of the interrogation that the spectator is invited to pose. In its reference to multiple expressive protocols, from installation work to sculpture to architecture, the work acquires meaning the moment that the viewer addresses its ambiguities.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.