Vilnius

Žilvinas Kempinas, Untitled (Forest), 2016, projections, steel tripods, reflective flooring. Installation view. Photo: Arnas Anskaitis.

Žilvinas Kempinas, Untitled (Forest), 2016, projections, steel tripods, reflective flooring. Installation view. Photo: Arnas Anskaitis.

Žilvinas Kempinas

Galerija Vartai

Žilvinas Kempinas, Untitled (Forest), 2016, projections, steel tripods, reflective flooring. Installation view. Photo: Arnas Anskaitis.

Žilvinas Kempinas is a master of motion. His kinetic sculptures made of unwound magnetic tape, the chaotic movement of filmed images, and the motion of the viewer’s body all create intertwined, often immersive, experiences. In his most recent solo exhibition, the New York-based Lithuanian artist presented motion both as a real-time experience and as an imprint of bodily gesture on a surface. By completely covering the numerous windows of the gallery, located in a nineteenth-century building, and blocking some entrances with his earlier pieces (such as White Noise, 2007) or even shifting angles of the rooms by adding false walls, the artist transformed the space into an isolated three-dimensional narrative.

In Untitled (Forest), 2016, a dark room with an upside-down video projection of a bicycle ride through woody landscape and a “forest” of metal tripods painted white and arranged on a reflective, glossy-black floor leave the viewer disoriented. There is no clear point of reference, just a psychedelic and somewhat frightening play of flickers and shadows of imagery on the walls and their reflections on the tripods and viewers’ bodies. The visual density increases the awareness of one’s own body and its often clumsy movement through space.

Kempinas is an avid cyclist, and the bicycle is a recurring motif in his work. The video installation Bike Messenger, 2006, documents his dizzying and dangerous ride through New York’s Times Square at rush hour, while his recent wall-based series “Ride”and “Cycle Drawings,” both 2016, depict traces of his bicycle tires after he dips them in india ink and acrylic and rides on long sheets of paper and canvases. Looking at the black lines zigzagging on colorful canvases and paper, one was reminded of the many examples of drawing and painting with imprints, from Robert Rauschenberg’s 1953 Automobile Tire Print through Yves Klein’s “Anthropométries,” 1960, to the beautiful Zen for Head, 1962, by Nam June Paik, or, among more recent examples, the “Burnout” series, 2007, for which Aaron Young asked motorcycle riders to perform rubber burnouts on aluminum panels coated with paint. These series don’t represent the first time Kempinas has employed objects to leave imprints of their motion in space: In 2010 he created a series of “Fan Drawings” by attaching a paintbrush to a fan. And his objects themselves can read as marks of a sort; his lines and loops of dancing kinetic magnetic tape have often been referred to as drawings in space. This time around, Kempinas combined the traces of the bicycle tires with the work of his hand, repeating the ride across the canvases in an almost Zen-like ritual. However, the flamboyant palette—mostly bright yellow, red, and pale blue—of the canvases and paper on which the ink drawings are made can come across as a bit too flat and decorative.

The spatial dramaturgy in the exhibition was created by guiding the viewer from a brightly lit room into the disorienting Untitled (Forest) installation, then into the light again and back into another dark room, filled with works from a series of slick light boxes, “Illuminators,” 2015, which deceive the viewer’s eye by acting as distant and mysterious spatial bodies while actually being mundane aluminum and resin surfaces. Here again, the artist showed his ability to create elegant, minimal, yet hypnotizing pieces with simple means—but the results also felt a bit thin and decorative. Movement remains his most powerful medium.

Neringa Černiauskaitė