Falke Pisano

In 1925, Ireland-born architect and designer Eileen Gray began work on a minimalist villa, E-1027, in the southern French commune of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. In collaboration with Jean Badovici, Gray conceived the innovative project as a dynamic marriage of tight forms and flexible spaces. Gray’s contemporary, Le Corbusier, quickly developed a fierce admiration of the house, and in 1938 and 1939, he painted a series of murals on its interior walls. Using Gray’s clean, reductive architecture as a canvas on which to project his own vision, Le Corbusier went beyond the role of engaged spectator. His intensified relationship with Gray’s work, his almost aggressive gesture, demonstrated the power of the viewer to trigger an object’s disintegration.

In her first solo show in Paris, Dutch artist Falke Pisano loosely referenced the volumes and shapes as well as the formal destruction of E-1027, located not far from Nice, where she was recently an artist-in-residence at Villa Arson. In her sculptural practice, shaped by a particular concern for abstraction, Pisano confounds aesthetic expectations by situating instantly seductive objects and photographs within a nuanced investigation of vision, production, and language. Pisano focuses on the roles of artist and spectator, carefully examining the encounter, creation, and ultimate breakdown of an object’s autonomy in its complex relationships to its producer, viewer, and context.

The video installation Object and Disintegration (the object of three) (all works 2008) dominated the center of the space, snugly accommodated by the dimensions of the gallery, while gently directing viewers’ movements. Three videos were projected onto a delicately balanced composition of white rectangular panels. In each of them, the artist uses texts—almost like an elegant form of graffiti—to identify and deconstruct one of three positions in relation to the sculpture: the engaging spectator, the constructing artist, and the activated site. Upon entering the gallery, the first visible projection outlines the position of the spectator in a series of white-lettered statements on a black background: NOW: A FIRST VIEW ON THE OBJECT. I CAN SEE FORM BUT MANY THINGS ARE AMBIGUOUS. Pisano herself appears in the second video, practicing a lecture presentation in front of a mirror; her hypnotic voice, heard over headphones, accompanies the slow tap of her hands as she marks the rhythm of the text, a gesture, combined with her gentle pace of speech, serving to weaken the severity of the sculptural form she describes. An abstract black-and-white animation visualizes the activation of the sculptural site that is constantly evolving through its relationship with the artist, the spectator, and its surroundings.

To echo the geometric forms of the graphic animation, Pisano playfully tucked a black-paper hanging sculpture, L’objet complet (the undeniable success of operations), just next to a mirrored panel in the otherwise static white Screen (Parabolic Reflector). In fact, Pisano took the shapes in L’objet complet from a number of maquettes for unrealized projects kept in her studio. Emphasizing process over product, Pisano has also formally framed images of her work space, filled with unfinished models and reference materials, in three photographs, each titled Conceptual Reconstruction Concerning Form: The Object, followed by different parentheticals concerning experience and comprehension.

Grappling with the legacy of modernism, Pisano’s approach to E-1027 (not to mention her own studio) is much like Robert Smithson’s relationship with Hotel Palenque. Dwelling on the structure’s concrete aesthetic as a means of its erosion, Pisano, like Smithson, is preoccupied with the site as an intermediary zone of construction and decay.

Lillian Davies