New York

Anne Deleporte

Simon Watson

Anne Deleporte’s work converts a simple image into a symbol for the nightmare of state control that we find ourselves increasingly diminished by even in first world countries. The process of getting a passport involves, of course, having one’s picture taken. In Paris, where Deleporte lives, a photograph of the applicant’s face is cropped down to the tightest perimeter, cutting off the neck, hair, and sometimes part of the outer ears. In the end, what you end up with is a picture that eliminates much of what we normally depend upon to identify the individual.

Deleporte does not exhibit these portraits, however, but rather the blowups of the croppings: wisps of hair, a creased neck, and nervously held shoulders all surround a blank white space where the face used to be—poetic remnants of a now absent individual. The slicing is evidently done quickly, as the cuts are crooked and sloppy. In one piece, Untitled (all works 1991), croppings are piled up like garbage.

These remnants were displayed in the main room while in a smaller middle room a photo of her New York City hotel carpeting was projected from a corner of the ceiling onto the floor. Another projector cast a photo of her hotel wall with one of her pieces hanging on it onto the gallery wall. In a third installation a monitor at the end of a long narrow room played two of Deleporte’s videos. These tapes featured moving tableaux made in America’s Southwest, in which vast expanses of nothing—a man walking around a piece of her sculpture in the middle of the desert, a highway traffic sign isolated against a blank sky—highlight the notion of absence. By pointing to what is missing, Deleporte’s work elliptically asks: who cut it out? We see the remnants of the face, but not the person; we see the sign, but not its location.

Last year’s bumper crop of political art included much work that combined rabid self-righteousness with the analytical weight of Saturday morning cartoons; too often, “political” messages exhibit the bravado of the special interest agenda, easily appealing to the converted but too weak in its grasp and presentation of the facts to convert the opposition. Controversial pronouncements can liven up a boring evening, and it’s no different within the art world. In the middle of the post-Modern doldrums, a taste of politics can be as bracing as a sip of home brew in church: even if it doesn’t change the sermon, at least it gets the blood going.

In this context, it is reassuring to see work like Deleporte’s that manages to pinpoint major issues in the political infrastructure simply and succinctly. Here the politics are not ineffectually glossed over or deceitfully romanticized, for each of these images reminds us how depressingly redundant the strictures that partition our lives are.

Dena Shottenkirk