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March 2009, Pieter Vermeersch @ White Box

Pieter Vermeersch, untitled (2009), acrylic on wall, video projection, exhibition view, white box, new york, 2009

Pieter Vermeersch at White Box
329 Broome Street
New York, NY 10002
February 25th through March 29th, 2009

With what is to become his first showing in New York City, and the United States no less, Pieter Vermeersch has taken a definitive stance that the gallery space as a whole is under the artist’s individual jurisdiction. Adamant about the mesmerizing appeal and effects of light, he often employs color gradation as a backdrop for the metamorphosis of space. Barebones and dark, the White Box gallery has become an oblique canvas in itself. A blue monochromatic band glides flawlessly along the eastern wall, curving around the corner furthest from the entrance where it becomes the most saturated. A black band encompassing the same gradation counteracts the vibrant streak of color on the opposite wall, creating a cyclical flow of light to dark that swims around the room. The immediate effect is an unquestionable mood, inescapable and only truly absorbed upon finding a place in the middle of the room between the two. Enormous in size, they take up a large percentage of the width and well as length of both walls they occupy. The progressive bands contradict and impose upon the viewer. A single projector shines on the blue scale and fashions an oblong quadrilateral, highlighting a large percentage of the gradation and extending furthermore across the floor. The eye pulsates over the animated progression and embraces the darker wall as an ominous, looming silhouette. The effect is one of anxiety, a constant impulse and desire to look over your shoulder. The inclination toward feeling is overpowering and further confirms the artist’s command of the environment.  
Vermeersch experiments specifically with light and space enabling him to create large, overwhelming pieces that may be mildly intimidating even as they embrace the viewer due to one key factor: there is nothing else in the room. The singular piece and lack of any sort of distraction whatsoever enables a true absorption of an instantaneous vibe contrasting with an aesthetically pleasing image. The image evades its enormity until one stumbles in front of the projector, realizing how much of a magnification the piece is from a normal canvas. The light transforms into a geometric image consisting of a subtle conversion of color with understated texture and line. In this case, however, texture emerges from swirls of the untouched floor of the gallery and the white molding of the space that invades the lit picture plane. Vermeersch thus creates the illusion of a permanent and dynamic image through the use of transitory components; light and the empty gallery space, which will not be so for much longer, create a forceful image that evokes a tweaked traditional minimalism.

The gradations utilized in this piece, seen in a large number of Vermeersch’s works, are reminiscent of the photographic grey scale. Otherwise, this image does nothing to remind one of a photograph. The somewhat ambiguous overlap of these two media further emphasizes the interaction of different artistic ideas within this piece, a seemingly refurbished smoothie of modern art trends. The effect of the light is similar to that of an earthwork referencing natural phenomenon to create an image or effect, the monochromatic band imitates the photographic scale, and the image in its completion is reminiscent of several modern trends in painting, including monochromatic images and space as canvas.  

Although I realize this makes Vermeersch sound wildly unoriginal and recombinant, I found his American debut, in New York City of all places, to be keenly successful. His penetration of the space is the most notable triumph, creating an unassuming physical and cerebral illusion to only thoroughly be realized within the space and upon one’s physical presence amongst the piece. This is where he differs greatly from the minimalism I so fluidly compared him to; although the techniques appear repetitive on the surface, the atmosphere he creates as a result of his exploration of light amid an energetic composition that dominates the space catapults him into a realm of work that requires complete submersion within the space. Rather than isolating the image and color, estranging the viewer thus, Vermeersch makes it his prime aim to connect viewer, environment and image.

Lynn Maliszewski.  

Pieter Vermeersch, untitled (2009), acrylic on wall, video projection, exhibition view, white box, new york, 2009

Pieter Vermeersch, untitled (2009), acrylic on wall, video projection, exhibition view, white box, new york, 2009

Pieter Vermeersch, untitled (2009), acrylic on wall, video projection, exhibition view, white box, new york, 2009

Jan Van Woensel

Jan Van Woensel is an independent curator, art critic and musician based in Brooklyn, NY. He is the curatorial advisor of Lee Ranaldo and Leah Singer and curator of Studio Philippe Vandenberg. Van Woensel is professor at CCA, dept of Curatorial Practice in San Francisco; Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles; and NYU, dept of Art and Art Professions in New York. Office Jan Van Woensel, a team of assistant curators supervised by Van Woensel, works with international clients such as private collectors, art galleries and artists on exhibitions. Contact: 

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