Sunday, 15 May 2011

Exhibition Review

Jean Marc Bustamente

'Dead Calm' at The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh

9th Feb 2011

Jean-Marc Bustamante (born 1952) is a French artist, sculptor and photographer. He is noted as a conceptual and installation artist and has incorporated ornamental design and architectural space in his works.

The exhibition comprised of two groups of work: early photographs and sculptures produced between 1978 and 1997, and a selection of recent pieces made in the last three years. The difference between these two groupings is perhaps the most striking thing about the show; the vividness and plasticity of Bustamante’s contemporary practice eclipses the work from the beginning of his career.

This artist likes to change the way he shows his work with each exhibition space his uses - this is shown in the book that accompanies this exhibition at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh.

On the ground floor are three spaces to the gallery in which Busamente has placed large works, upon entering the space you are greeted by what at first appears to be a piece of furniture which I placed my bag upon and was asked by the exhibition guide to remove as it was sitting on a piece of the artist's work - oops this was unexpected. I've been in exhibitions where sculptural works look like furniture and honoured them as artworks by observing them at a distance, but this piece by Busamente does look very much like a large gallery table seat - the kind of ones you get in an old gallery, like the National Gallery of Scotland. Alas, I'd got off to a bad start in this exhibition, and this didn't improve much in this part of the exhibition. As a keen photographer I like it when photos are displayed in different ways, and it is always statement-courting to have largescale photographs in a small space. Busamente's photographs of a place (unidentified) drenched in sunlight are lost in the darkness of the Fruitmarket dim lighting, and it didn't help my understanding of his work by having two large sandpits at either side of the ground floor space, there was no relationship between these and the photographs that I could see, and believe me, I tried to establish a connection. I later read more about the artist and discovered that he chooses to exhibit his photographs without any information about specific locations or chronology, and that the photographs alone provide all the information to the viewer as they examine the minutiae of each.

However, the photographs did not entice me enough to feel much interest in them. And thus I felt apprehensive and filled with disinterest and disappointment as I ascended to the upper floor - and I'm glad to say the work upstairs should be the work Busamente exhibited alone for this show, as it really made up for the ground floor experience.

Several large scale works using ink on plexiglass both with and without steel frames adorned the brightly lit walls. Works I can single out for appreciation are 'Balbec 2010' and 'Landau 2010' , the latter of which is very like Japanese style (Hiroshige) printmaking as if printed on clear plastic as opposed to fragile white paper. The natural skylight windows of the gallery lent themselves nicely to these plexiglass pieces. These works made the show more of a success than a failure for me as a visitor. Looking back down at the ground floor work I think that the sandpits on their own would have worked better than being accompanied by the largescale c-print photographs, or less photographs and more light in the ground floor space would have made this whole exhibition work much better together.

Busamente's show I approached with excitment at seeing the gallery's flyer for it, but upon reflection the saying 'one should never judge a book by its cover' comes to mind when I remember this show.

Some of the works in this exhibition are in the images below.

Bac à sable I, by Jean Marc Bustamante (1990)

Dead Calm (installation view), 2011. Courtesy the artist, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac and Timothy Taylor Gallery, London

One of the C-prints

Landau, 2010 Ink on Plexiglas,150x150cm Courtesy the artist and Timothy Taylor Gallery

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