Rafal Bujnowski. Wrong Works 2005 - 2006
Daniel Hug Gallery. Los Angeles June / July 2007
The German term Gestalt when connected to an approach of making art and constructing meaning can appear simple to grasp in essence but has been applied to some of the most challenging and complex bodies of work by artists of various recent generations with vastly different concerns and approaches. Such work, reaching back to the 1960’s and ‘70’s, from Fluxus to Minimalism, seems to form the intestinal complexity for the kind of debates Rafal Bujnowski wants to turn over for us today. This particular installment ‘Wrong Works 2006 2007’ at Daniel Hug Gallery Los Angeles has all the appeal of a discursive wide ranging practice but on closer inspection seems to plough the same furrow through marginally different terrain.
Although the work utilizes various processes and tools of facture, the cultural site here is painting and its traumatized LTR with object and image, plasticity and illusion. The accompanying press release has Bujnowski citing Los Angeles as ‘the global capitol of success’ and despite this somewhat simplistic view of a complex and layered city, the sentiment resonates within the work of artists long established on the west coast. The darker side of LA has been well documented in the early aestheticized abjections of Ingrid Callame and the acerbic, pseudo cathartic performances of Paul McCarthy (to name two of the most obvious amongst a coterie of greater and lesser talents), to such a degree that anything exploring an urban ‘underbelly’ has to check itself for the accompanying clichés much like Vegas and neon.
McCarthy, Callame and many others drew their fellow Angelinos and the international art world to the edges of a city and way of life that was (and continues to be) a victim of the excesses of consumerism and Regan era social cutbacks. In this respect Bujnowski’s ‘failures’ seem to hit the right mark with a show that is just nondescript and shabby enough to elicit a clammy belief in his polemic. Beyond the pasted-on Politic, the politic of the work through its relationship with painting, object and image, seems to introduce a project that has just begun to unravel. In various ways the individual works embody a kind of structural ‘stage-setting’ by somewhat obvious and often contrived attempts to talk about success as failure and visa versa, as if us art school kids need a lesson in understanding how ‘binaries’ can be liquefied by simple juxtaposition of assumed opposites.
Where Bujnowski works best however is when he just does stuff and steers away from self-knowing art world jibes via a Factotum here and a reflexive nod there as can be seen irritatingly in ‘Fishing Hook (American)’ made none the better for its intended tautological platitude ad-absurdum.
Like other painters and indeed writes over recent decades, it’s at the periphery of the work and cusp of intentionally that seems to speak most convincingly. The piece that gives the show its title does this effectively and draws one to the work as a site that openly questions where the work really is. In the seductive banality of Torie Begg or Angela del la Cruz, where object, edge and image resonate beyond the parameters of painting and bleed with a twisted anthropomorphism, Bujnowski sets us up to think about what this experience is for us now when experience has long been territorialized by a fading yet stubborn Anglo-American avant-garde as well as the ‘global capitol’ he points at.
On these terms ‘failed works’ succeeds and succeeds well but in the bigger picture, Bujnowski will have to dig deeper into his self effacing, side stepping logic to find the denouncement of individual style that seems to elude him at this important juncture in his career. It seems ironically less about denouncement after all but a further discovery of intention to separate his politic from the tired Politics of an academic reflexivity.
NR June 2007.
Neal Rock is a British artist living and working in Los Angeles, California. He has exhibited extensively across Europe and the with shows such as, 'Expander' Royal Academy of Arts London, 'Extreme Abstraction', Albright Knox Buffalo, 'Landscape Confection' Wexner Centre Ohio and Orange County Museum of Art California and 'Jerwood Contemporary Painters' Jerwood Space, London. His work has appeared in numerous publications from the 's Guardian and Independent newspapers to Vogue and Art Review magazine. He is represented by fa projects, London, Torch gallery Amsterdam and Kontainer gallery Los Angeles.
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