Iran Do Espirito Santo: DEPOSITION
by Hans Michaud
Mr. Espirito Santo's pieces at Sean Kelly gallery stared me down. As
pieces in an art gallery go, it would be fairly difficult for
especially these to "stare somebody down", since the work is neither
representative of any thing mammalian (with eyes) nor is it, in
another sense, confrontational. Rather, it is excessively patient,
like a dusty journal in an old chest buried somewhere in the attic: it
has within itself the capacity to wait for quite some time to be
discovered. There is nothing about Mr. Espirito Santo's work that
yells, brays, screams, knocks, shouts, whinnies or cajoles.
In the first two galleries sit the sculptures DEPOSITION 1 and
DEPOSITION 2. These pieces look like large, framed pictures. Except
that they are entirely black: the frame, the picture. And they do not
hang, neither one of them. They lean against the wall, one rectangle
resting horizontally, one resting vertically.
They are made of concrete. True, this is something I garnered from the
press release; even a careful inspection of DEPOSITION 1 and
DEPOSITION 2 will not reveal their concreteness to the viewer. But
information is where one finds it.
Each gallery is brightly lit, as many galleries are, but these
especially so. Each space glared. This may have been the effect of the
actual black pieces, within each space. The contrast, more as an
afterburn, is enormous. The contrast is not due to the black-and-white
starkness of the gallery walls, the object placement, etc. The
contrast is an afterthought, and it is also a contrast between these
two galleries and the third, but more on that later.
Why I think it is worth it to write about DEPOSITION 1 and DEPOSITION
2: the picture-in-a-frame as object, as a heavy, weight-laden thing,
suggests a history that weighs down any presentation of the actual
project, any actual pictures-within-a-frame. By presenting us with
these two objects weighed down and unable to hang on the walls, Mr.
Espirito Santo opens for us a particular rendition of a culmination of
art history, spilled over into the present. Very much like how
concrete is poured, these objects represent art history and, in
particular, the notion that the current gallery space, whether it is
showing paintings, photographs, film/video or objects, is still a
space which speaks the language of "objects on a wall" (in contrast
to, for instance, a movie theater, a cafe, a public road, a shopping
mall: each are weighed down by their respective histories, meaning the
respective set of expectations each individual brings to each
encounter with these spaces. In other words, how can each individual
apprehend a "painting" or a "sculpture" within a gallery space? Not
only are the objects themselves weighed down with history but also the
gallery itself is weighed down. DEPOSITION 1 and DEPOSITION 2 ask the
above questions eloquently and, like stated already, patiently. Like
In gallery 3, the largest space at Sean Kelly, an entirely different
work and experience awaits the viewer. Instead of a gallery space
which contains the piece, in this instance the piece itself is the
Mr. Espirito Santo transformed three of the four walls into grayscale
photographic test strips. Standing inside of this, I got the distinct
impression that I was occupying the inside of a photographic process,
a photographic set of expectations, a history itself of the
photographic space (in contrast to the gallery space). The brilliance
of the piece lies not in a juxtaposition of the two spaces, but in the
devouring of one by the other. It's much different than, say,
witnessing a large-scale actual photograph or product of the actual
photo process (a la Vera Lutter). It's far different. The
disconcerting element in Mr. Espirito Santo's piece, "En Passant", is
that, as a viewer/witness/spectator, I felt that I'd suddenly skipped
across previously neatly-defined criteria and intellectual space and
are occupying both at the same time.
When I realized this I was not only captivated but also let off the
hook, so to speak, from the obligation to literally define what I was
seeing around me. It is literally impossible, in the same way that a
direct interpretation of, for instance, string theory of quantum
physics is impossible. I can write about it and define it as such
("two spaces occupying the same space at the same time") but in doing
so I am illustrating a literal impossibility.
Mr. Espirito Santo deserves accolades for raising the questions he
has, in this context. I anxiously await the next set of pieces.
Hans Michaud is a freelance journalist in New York.
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