Friday, February 19, 2010

Jacco Olivier at the Marianne Boesky Gallery

Spotted Olivier Zahm at Marianne Boesky gallery last night. It was the opening exhibition for Dutch artist Jacco Olivier (Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, 1997-8). It was, quite simply, the best exhibit I've seen this year. He is an artist of tremendous ability and vision. Although I am not quite sure exactly what I saw: was it an opening of a painterly film or an exhibition of a new kind of canvas? From the press release:

"Fusing painting and filmmaking, Jacco Olivier continually reworks his canvases, photographing each iteration and brushstroke, and finally combining the various stages with their liquid color into films. The subject matter of Olivier’s new work represents a notable shift, as the artist frees the films from the loose narrative framework he had previously employed, moving away from the language of animated film and more towards that of painting. Appropriating traditional painting subjects such as bathers, landscape, and portraiture, and pushing them at times to the edge of abstraction, the artist creates lush, painterly films. Olivier magnifies his new works to a variety of larger scales, eschewing the intimately-scaled projections of his previous work so that the films become a more 'human' size; a corporeal one, in keeping with that of the painted canvas."

Vladimir Nabokov, the most visual of writers, once floated the interesting aesthetic idea about what might happen if an animator made films out of the works of famous artists, say: Picasso. Such a "film" would exist in a liquid time, perhaps as fast as a dream or as slow as the sound of a 19th Century Swiss music box (Is there even any difference?). This is, essentially, what Jacco Olivier does; this is the aesthetic universe in which he operates. Everything is non-linear. Instead of the direct influences of Picasso, however, Olivier's influences -- particularly in The Bath -- are more Impressionist, leaning towards Degas, Renoir, C├ęzanne and Matisse (particularly the liquid blues).

Galactic are Jacco's themes. At the microcosmic level, Olivier tackles the water (in the form of a pond) in the first of two enclosed rooms (theaters?)) that make up the gallery. Landscape is an aerial view. The slow pan of the film upwards controls what the field viewer sees as opposed to a straight painting. The lush greens interespersed with pellucid blues give the effect of a pond's reflective surface as well as non-linear space.

Revolution, 2010, Animation on Blu-ray disc.

In the other room, Olivier tackles -- among several other themes -- the cosmos. "Over the course of a 24 minute cycle," the press release says of Revolution, "with each minute representing an hour, the film moves through an entire day, from warm sunlight to black void and back again." Sepia colors pool and dissipate. Green nebulae wade across the zero gravity atmosphere of Olivier's film/paintings not unlike intergalactic squid. But that is in the back of the second room. Before that, one encounters a bather -- the influence of Degas -- but in ravishing Renoir blues (Bath, 2008). Finally, although it addresses neither the cosmic or the microcosmic, his Self Portrait is wonderful. It is more than clever, the entire collection is stunning. The added fourth dimension -- Time -- makes all the difference.

Marianne Boesky gallery is located on 509 W. 24th street between 10th and 11th avenues.

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