Latifa Echakhch, Enluminure (Illumination) (detail), 2012, ink on inside of windows, dimensions variable.

Latifa Echakhch, Enluminure (Illumination) (detail), 2012, ink on inside of windows, dimensions variable.

Latifa Echakhch

Latifa Echakhch, Enluminure (Illumination) (detail), 2012, ink on inside of windows, dimensions variable.

In Italian, the word verso has several meanings: a line in poetry (“verse”), the direction of movement (“toward”), and the back side of a sheet of paper (“verso”). As the title of Latifa Echakhch’s recent exhibition, the word reflected the complex and stratified nature of her work. The artist seeks and reveals the polysemic nature of words and things—meanings that slide into one another, sharing some aspects yet elsewhere diverging. Enluminure (Illumination), 2012, a site-specific work the artist prepared for the gallery, was made of black ink that had been dripped down the gallery windows. It was a written account of the space, rhythmic and unstable. The lines became a wall, a curtain, rain, tears. They could be read as arabesques, or one could take them as the manifestation of an aggressive gesture intended to negate the view, obscuring the transparency of the glass, or of an intimate desire to mark a time and space with one’s own hand. This multiplicity of suggestions was echoed in the title, which could refer to painted manuscripts, to lighting, and to enlightenment. The idea of casting light was contrasted with putting something in the shade, and the idea of revelatory writing countered the black trail delineated on the window in indecipherable fashion.

In relation to the exhibition title, Enluminure was a reminder that the most visible and clearest aspect of things does not always reveal what lies beneath them. Insofar as “Verso” alluded to a direction to be taken, one could not tell precisely which one, just as the ink, left to drip, followed various paths dictated by chance. The show’s title also suggested the rhythm of a poem unfolding in the space, embodied not only in the black lines of Enluminure, but also in the series “Morgenlied” (Morning Song), 2012–, structures of metal rods with hooks that could serve as a hanging system for paintings—perhaps the paintings that were installed on other walls of the gallery. The latter works, from the “Sans Titre” series, 2010–12, were as luminous and light as birdsong.

Echakhch’s work often involves removing a thing’s center and leaving its support, frame, or outline—the functional part of the naked and exposed object. Paintings are taken off hooks, and flags off flagpoles (Fantasia, 2012). In the “Sans Titre” series, canvases are covered with carbon paper without text, just as in “Frames,” 2000– (not in the exhibition), the borders of carpets are shown with their centers cut away. Or Echakhch repositions objects in unexpected webs of references. Fantôme (Ghost), 2011, is a small installation made up of a chair, a harmonica, and an abandoned handkerchief. Skin, 2012, is a pile of shoes thrown onto the floor. The works always revolve around a void, an absence. The blank carbon paper in the “Sans Titre” series makes one think of censorship or, in any case, of some other kind of negation. All Echakhch’s works somehow or other critique the present and reflect on the everyday nature of being in the world.

Alessandra Pioselli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.