Los Angeles

Tatiana Trouvé, The Shaman, 2018, patinated bronze, marble, granite, concrete, steel, sand, water. Installation view.

Tatiana Trouvé, The Shaman, 2018, patinated bronze, marble, granite, concrete, steel, sand, water. Installation view.

Tatiana Trouvé

Tatiana Trouvé’s first exhibition in Los Angeles opens on a fantastical scene, stage-managed with imposing verisimilitude: The concrete floor of Gagosian’s front gallery seems to have been fractured by a tectonic shift and disassembled into an irregular surface of jagged blocks jutting this way and that around a central waterlogged depression. Protruding from this shallow pool is the lower section of a sizable oak tree—actually a bronze cast—dribbling water from its torn and tangled roots. Titled The Shaman, 2018, this work is essentially a fountain, one that insistently recommends itself to the more lavish patios of this southland region, where the imagination of disaster is acute and often mitigated with occult, new age consolations. And yet, since a very similar version of this font was shown at the Frieze Art Fair in London, it can hardly be described as an authentically site-specific effort. The opposite seems to be true: The artist’s work is about laboriously transposing the real—this location, this architecture, these objects, these materials, etc.—into the infinitely transmutable realm of the imaginary.

If you squint your eyes before The Shaman, you might conjure an image of Caspar David Friedrich’s 1823–24 painting Das Eismeer (The Sea of Ice), which depicts the wreckage of a ship on an arctic expedition, its hull retreating into the frozen splash of a broken ice sheet. And as one further sifts through a memory bank of analogous images, the bed of green-glass shards that comprises Robert Smithson’s 1969 floor piece at Dia:Beacon, Map of Broken Glass (Atlantis), could also turn up. Let’s not forget that Smithson made a practice of planting trees upside down, rendering them figures of a turning world and summoning a pre- and posthuman expanse of geological time. Unlike more contemporary artists who have directly referenced Smithson’s trees, from Liz Larner to Sam Durant, Trouvé does not seem to want to associate herself with any particular lineage, which makes her still more contemporary. What we have here is not a virtual image literalized as sculptural form, but rather a three-dimensional tableau haunted by all of the images from which it is derived.

Propped up in the pool from which the oak’s bottom end extends is a generic (albeit also cast-bronze) sawhorse supporting a packing blanket and several cushions (made of patinated bronze, granite, and marble, respectively) as well as a ring of (bronze) keys dangling from one end. Two related works, both titled The Guardian, 2019, feature a similar assortment of prosaic yet aesthetically inflected components—including more blankets and pillows, as well as throwaway chairs and some analog sound gear, all either cast or carved from precious materials—and are installed in facing corners of the gallery. At first glance, these objects evince the sort of quasi assemblage one might come across in any artist’s studio, where otherwise unrelated items are provisionally linked in the haste of production. Yet this invitation to somehow conflate show space and work space, or to consider the role of process in its result, leads only to further ungrounding. The studio as site of formation, with all its ready equipment and material fallout, is encountered here not as the negative shell from which the positive artwork has been pried, but as a scenically reintegrated component thereof.

Trouvé’s drawings, which fill Gagosian’s second gallery to capacity, hang back-to-back on a freestanding metallic support structure that configures this space into a kind of maze, foregrounding this mise en abyme aspect of her practice. Rendered in exacting pencil lines on paper mounted to canvas, the pictures are united by their haphazardly stained grounds, most dyed through a combined process involving bleach and water. All feature details of landscapes and architectures, galleries and studios, and the technical bric-a-brac that is employed to make art or becomes the residue of already made art. Windows open into windows; the external and internal realms fold together, and they do so without any friction. I would find this thrilling if I had any sense that the work were also delivering a diagnosis of the so-called state of the art instead of enacting its ascendant symptom of simply trying to blow you away with dislocated narratives, refined techniques, and material splendor.