Daniel Buren

Daniel Buren’s work emphasizes the dialectic between object, sign, and place. Through modularity, he creates a virtual space that takes shape in the relationships among volume, color, and viewer. In this show, this relationship was shown through a play between visibility and invisibility, between the design of the object and the multiplication of colors reflected in it. Buren alternated bands of mirror and white laminated wood, constructing a series of ten large square frames—a direct symbol for painting. But unlike a painting, here everything took place outside the frame. At its center, the frame enclosed a wall area, an empty, white space, which entered into a relationship with the surrounding wall. It was as if the “painting” had been turned inside out. And this was underlined by the reflection of the colors—the opposite walls were painted red, black, blue, yellow—within the mirror bands.

The gallery is shaped like a number seven; this allowed for multiple reflections, but not for a frontal one. One had to move about the gallery in order to perceive the interplay of colors on the frames. At times this created a reference to Piet Mondrian, or, depending upon the angle of the reflection, there was a continual reference to transparencies and fadeouts. The viewer was faced with the mobility of the image, whereby the objective symbol of the frame was connected to the perceptual change that every painting offered. In order for the “painting” to have a composition within the frame, it was necessary for the visitor to become a participant, bringing into focus the place that he or she occupied. Only then could the viewer give boundaries to the hypothetical image that she/he perceived. There was never one single image, but all those that the viewer’s shifts of position registered.

The second room of the gallery contained five smaller “paintings”; the opposite walls were painted green and pink. Although the layout of the space was different, the same condition of reflection was repeated. All in all, the project thrived on its capacity to dematerialize the boundaries within which it was constructed. On a metaphorical level, Buren seems to be saying that, in the wake of the collapse of utopias and idealism, one can only perceive change through careful attention to experience, which he entrusted here to the individual viewer. Thus, change is made visible, and images can converge to fill the empty spaces within and around the frames. These then symbolically assume the value of the perceptual construction of the self and the world. The paradox of Buren’s project lies in the fact that it becomes a form of resistance, waiting for the mobility of the real world to take shape. Within this mobility, a dialectic opens up between the place in which the viewers find themselves and the image they find themselves facing.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.