Casting Call, An Interview with Melchior De Tinguy

Throughout his work, Melchior de Tinguy brings together various references to modernist architecture and monumental structures inspired by Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius or Roberto Burle Marx. The utopia conveyed by these seemingly grandiose references is funneled through his sculptural process to give birth to slightly grotesque anthropomorphic sculptures. Set on a stage-like platform, these intimate characters and their bodies made of concrete, plaster, and steel rods, occupy a space between a small theatrical production, and an oversized urban diorama.

Informed by the urban textures and surfaces observed by Tinguy on a daily basis both in New York City and in Bahrain where he was born, this sculptural installation highlights his lasting interest in urbanization and its social, cultural and psychological implications.

De Tinguy’s exhibition is on view March 30, 2017 – April 2, 2017.

Naima Green: Lets start with your process. Where did these pieces begin for you?

Melchior de Tinguy: The starting point happened in April towards the end of my first year. I was working on a photograph I made: an iteration of a cement image found on the internet and I made a cement frame for it. That was specifically the moment that triggered everything, manipulating materials was a big break through for me. I was focused on architectural materials, building materials. I wanted to get as close as possible. As you know, cement is the most used material in modernist architecture, particularly brutalist architecture.

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Through this process I began to understand a lot of things about the pictures I was  making before the program. I was making architectural pictures. I was working in Bahrain, I was born there and before I came to New York I was living there for three years. I was making a series of photographs where I was investigating the urban landscapes in Bahrain. I focused on the changes of the urban landscape itself.

NG: I see so much of your palette in looking at these pictures. 

MT: Yes, there is no doubt that I consider Bahrain my home, and I have a huge attachment to its color palette.  I think in a way, that living in New York forced me to look closer at details, finding my own colors and patterns I would notice in the streets or the in the subway.

You see the sculptures are made out of fragments of buildings I find appealing. I also researched Le Corbusier, the Bauhaus school, and other modernist architects. I have a particular interest towards brutalist architecture. The MET Breuer is one of my favorite buildings in New York. It is cold and monumental and the body is forced to engaged with its structure.  However by making my own forms out of these materials and turning them into anthropomorphic sculptures, I turn a physical reaction upside down and from negative to positive. This is where my photographic eye comes in.

Making work that is informed by so much rigidity and coldness was something I was trying very hard to break. I discovered the work of artist and architect Roberto Burl Marx. Most of the forms you see in his work are organic to me and an incredible way to think about structures within organisms. And this is where painting came in for me. Painting on a surface like painting on a wall. Putting colors on my sculptures like you find graffiti on wall, but also as they have an anthropomorphic quality thinking about make up or body paint. My thesis show will be theatrical. 

NG: In what ways?

MT: There will be a stage and those sculptures can finally find a way to be in conversation. They become characters and they will operate together. It is the only way I think to really understand what my relation is to them. I think they have other qualities not only architectural, they also resemble artifacts from another time, especially the hieroglyphic cubes. This guy, pictured below (center), is inspired by a photograph and drawing of Mario Botta’s Gotthard Bank.

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I’m trying to bring my research directly into the work and I think it is important to allow them to operate and live on their own.

NG: What is the process of imprinting?

MT: This is where I can see it is a photographer making sculptures. Not only by the negative and positive process that is inherent to molding and casting but the fact that you see details only from the front. They do not have a back.

NG: Are you cutting away or are you adding on? Your work brings up those questions for me. 

MT: I tell myself that these are sculptures from a photographic point of view. I’ve been making photographs for eight years. There is no doubt I think like a photographer. In some aspects, sculpture and photography have so much in common.

NG: What about the colors and the tactile aspect? What drew you to making objects in the first place, aside from photographing the concrete and thinking about the concrete? 

MT: That’s what happened. I got so used to looking at something and never touching it. Coming so close to the surface of something… I had a tendency of always making picture from a far distance. In a way I was not physically engaged with the questions I raised in my work.

Coming so close made me want to use the materials and I can think of my work like a building filled with characters. The sculptures have names and they are on stage, like in a theater. 

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‘Revisit’ – MFA Thesis show by Marla Hernandez

On the top floor at the ICP-Bard studios lives an experience. As I walk up the stairs to the exhibition from Marla Hernandez, the expectation (seeing how this is a program in advance photographic study) is to see photographs. But Hernandez invites the viewer into a space that immediately throws that normal expectations out the window. Initially confronted with a small a photograph lives inside an envelope, the work starts to play on the viewers physical distance to the work. For this piece demanded I look closer — and soon I found out that much of the work demands a specific interactions.

Familiar objects appear. The material that her photographs are printed on recall for me the softness of fabric. I know how this feels and I want to touch it. But should I touch the work? I decide to step back and fight my urge and give my full attention to the piece. The photograph simulates what I want to feel. The photograph of a cloth mimics its softness but yet its disrupted with high contrast. The work is pushing and pulling my senses in an interesting ways. Is that the value of a photographic work that lives off the wall?

To my right a bright color is glowing. A florescent pink calls me to it, but it rejects me. In neon, the words ‘Fuck You’ appear. I move on. There is a room that is guarded by a black cloth, similar to the photograph. I push through, for my immediate reaction is get the cloth out of my way so I can see! On the other side lives a dark room. There are several pieces glowing, and in the center is box shape. The darkness is still and quiet. As you sit in the space your eyes change and so do the pieces.

I notice there are some stairs in the space leading up to something. My initial reaction was to walk up the stairs to view the work presented at the top. The vertigo I feel when being up high while looking at that piece that is pointed down reminded me of my position in within the space, which was not a normal one. This brings forth the ideas of illusion and power through out the work. What better way to talk about these things then through other senses then your eyes.

I had a chance to sit down and talk with Marla about her work:

Jacob Garcia:  I often times find the show title to be somewhat of a key to an exhibition. Can you talk about what the word Revisit means?

Marla Hernandez: I wanted to pick a title that suited the somewhat elusive nature of my work. Revisit came up as it represented both the immersive nature of installation and the ritualistic aspect of objects coming together. I chose the title also because it’s relative to the aspect of haunting. A haunt typically is a place someone comes back to again and again and likewise, for a ghost, which represents a replaying of a historicized moment. When the installation is together it manifests a presence.

JG: Following up on that question, the word visit tends to be a way for a person to position their body. We visit this place or I am visiting you.. Can you talk about your work in relation to the bodily experience?

MH: I absolutely agree, visit or visiting is a specific action that talks about bodily presence. I call upon the viewer’s experience of art to be one of both touch and sight. The materials and sculptural elements call upon a sensuality that is both tactile and seductive. The level of bodily experience is activated on a spectrum throughout the works. At it’s height of sensuality is within the darkened room in which I remove the better part of your sense of seeing in the exhibition. In this space I think that the darkness helps to create a deeper sense of fluidity of bodies in an ambiguous space. In addition, the darkness maintains a certain level of anonymity between the viewers to maintain intimacy.

JG: How do materials function in your work? The work has photographic elements, but a lot of it blurs the line between photography and sculpture.

MH: At first, the curiosity of working with plastic and metal netting, plexiglass, silk, chain, and found objects had a direct relationship to the lens and the camera, as I’d construct environments with the materials for photographing. The materials began to take on an allegorical meaning in my work, exemplifying other themes of seduction and concealment as they began to stand on their own rather than for their depictive quality in a picture. In this way, the objects have a flexible relationship; they are either at the will of photographic abstraction or have the authority to subvert simply being a photograph. This push and pull of photography and sculpture is demonstrated by my piece Silk Palm, a photograph printed on silk that subverts photographic presentation by being draped on a chain so that it is not wholly visible and irreverent to the rectangle.

JG: I am always curious how one starts to bring the photograph “off” the wall. When did you start making pieces that were more sculptural?

MH: I must first acknowledge, this was a scary moment for me as a photographer and I wanted it so bad. There is always a kind of “filter” or “safety” in presenting objects and sculptures as photographs compared to presenting the things themselves. Once objects are in the room with you, a whole world of relationships opens up between the viewer, the architecture, and history of a space. However, it seemed like an important natural progression for my work because I was equally concerned with the viewer and spatial relationships within my pictures. My first sculptural pieces were these shadow boxes that contained images of staged environments I photographed then placed florescent orange and hot pink plexi glass inside that served the spatial planes of the pictures themselves. They are very special pieces to me and it is evident in the kind of magic and preciousness they contain.

JG: Lets talk about your “Shrouded Sculpture.” It is mentioned in the press release and it seems to be an important part of the show. Can you tell us more about that piece?

MH: There are many layers to this piece, both the relationship of photography and sculpture that I am blurring and point to mysticism and allegory that is part of the installation. Conceptually speaking, I am covering a sculpture with a large silk sewn shroud that contains a collage of chains I photographed. In this particular situation, I am talking about the mutability and relationships of the materials; a pliable fabric that conforms to the shape of the sculpture while still concealing what exactly is underneath with image. The “sculpture” itself has a direct relationship to size of a body. That much is evident but, what I am concealing, or restraining, or protecting is never revealed.

JG:  You speak about demonstrating power and seduction with your work — specifically through the materials you use. I have two questions concerning this:

What is your fascination with these ideas of power and seduction?

Are your uses of particular materials that suggest these dynamics derived from a historical context or a personal one?

MH: The materials definitely relate to both a historical context and have some personal decisions. Importantly, I think that my ideas of power and seduction are related to confounding understandings of power and that seduction in itself is a form of power. Things like hypnosis and enticement have the same type of draw compared to direct forms of power. So in that way, some of my smallest pieces, like the security envelope, suggest a kind of power that seduces and brings you closer, to have an intimate relationship with the art, unlike the experience of power one may feel when looking at a large scale piece by Richard Serra or Michael Heizer in which I feel more distance is created between the body and the work through it’s sheer scale. And as for the context of materials, historically speaking, vision’s relationship to materials and the body, especially in the context that Michel Foucault wrote about the panopticon in Discipline and Punish or in Jonathan Crary’s Techniques of the Observer in which he described the “tangibility” of vision as an integral part of classical theories of optics in the 17th and 18th century. Drapery became a focal point of painting in its ability to describe a realness in which one might reach out and touch the fabric to reveal the photograph behind it but only to find that it was apart of the painting itself. Aside from the historical aspects of vision and touch, my own aspect of seduction is apparent in the choice of materials I use and sometimes their particular personal relationship to my own body and experiences.

 

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Silk Palm                         Cut3

The Readable City at Angell Gallery

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Jessica Thalmann. Moonlight, 2017. Archival Pigment Print, 20 x 30 inches, Edition of 10.

 

THE READABLE CITY

Angell Gallery
April 7–29, 2017

Opening reception Friday April 7 from 7 to 9pm

ANGELL GALLERY is pleased to present THE READABLE CITY, a group show featuring seven artists from Toronto and Montreal, working in photography, collage, video, sculpture and installation. The exhibition is curated by Associate Director Bill Clarke and features artists: Anna Eyler, Malka Greene, Eva Kolcze, Ella Dawn McGeough, Aude Moreau, Simone Rochon & Jessica Thalmann. Taking its title from a phrase in French scholar Michel de Certeau’s essay “Walking in the City”, the exhibition runs from April 5 through 29, with an opening reception on Friday, April 4 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

How often have you traversed a city park using a path worn into the grass by others rather than walking the route laid down by the park’s designers? When describing how to get from point A to point B in the city, are you more likely to think in terms of street names and numbers, or landmarks and buildings passed by on the way? Have you walked in a parade or occupied a public space during a demonstration.

In “Walking in the City” and “Spatial Stories” – essays found in The Practice of Everyday Life* – French scholar Michel de Certeau examines how we unconsciously navigate urban environments by using “tactics” like those above in response to the “strategies” employed by institutions and governments  to control our movements and influence our behaviours. Certeau, surveying New York City from the top of the then newly built World Trade Center towers, describes how governments, institutions and corporations view the city  as a unified whole, structuring streets in grids, naming parks or squares, and raising buildings and monuments that “historicize, hierarchize and semantically order the surface of the city.” The city’s inhabitants, meanwhile, resist these strictures by creating shortcuts, seizing control of public areas or defacing surfaces. For Certeau, cities are sites of struggle between forces of control and those of expression.

Unlike the capital cities of Europe, New York hasn’t “learned the art of growing old by playing on all its pasts,” according to Certeau. The same could be said of Toronto, which, like New York, seems always to be “in the act of throwing away its previous accomplishments and challenging the future.” (The same may not be said of a city like Montreal, which has done more to preserve a sense of its past.) Cities, however, are more than architecture and infrastructure. They are places where people seek success, acceptance and community, and arenas in which social movements coalesce and ideas ferment.

The exhibition also picks up on another thread in Certeau’s essays; that is, how people’s presence in spaces turn them into places. The artists here closely observe the surfaces of the city and give them new form, We are invited to consider how our actions shape the cities in which we live, and how, through collective action, we can produce communities in which everyone can say, “I feel good here.”

Text by Bill Clarke

*Quotes taken from: de Certeau, Michael: The Practice of Everyday Life: translation: Steven Rendall, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1984.

http://www.angellgallery.com/exhibition/the-readable-city

Cy Twombly

Last weekend I was in Houston for the opening of ‘Her Feet Planted Firmly on the Ground’ at the Houston Center for Photography. Saturday afternoon I walked over to The Menil Collection and spent a couple hours in the Cy Twombly Gallery. The work below has been on my mind for a week now. It is not just one painting, but a series of five composed of: oil, oil/wax crayon, and water-based paint on canvas mounted on wood panel.

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Cy Twombly, Untitled (Analysis of the Rose as Sentimental Despair), 1985

The picture below is my little homage to Twombly.

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Naima Green, Black Hole Coffee, 2017

Interview: Sam Margevicius on numbers, chance and photography

Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Sam to chat with him about his work, his influences, and his solo show “444” opening this week. Below is our conversation.

 

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Nicole Bull: Can you talk about your use of numbers and how 444 became important to you?

Sam Margevicius: I think one of my, at times, debilitating modes of working is that I am really easily influenced. So that makes it hard sometimes. If I think I’m doing something, its not like a steady moving whale that’s got momentum, but its over here and over there.

I went to Chelsea just now, and there was a show at Dia:Chelsea that I had wanted to see for a while because its about numbers. I stood there reading the artist’s statement and the artist [Hanne Darboven] says that numbers mean nothing to her. And I thought that was pretty interesting because she talked about how they’re just like meaningless vessels.

NB: Do you agree with that?

SM: I agree that they can be. I really like vessels. Vessels in the sense similar to how the word ‘you’ or ‘I’  are kind of empty things. Its only available as something that means something when its contextualized through gesture. So, with 444, I have the story about how exactly the illustration of 444 came to me, and I’ve written it, but I’m always really scared of  those moments when everything just seems to come together perfectly and it feels like divine intervention.

A month ago I went to an artist talk between James Welling and this photographer named Jeff Whetstone at Julie Saul Gallery. Jeff Whetstone was photographing 4×5 on a bridge in Trenton, NJ and the bridge says “TRENTON MAKES THE WORLD TAKES.” He made all of these non-interesting photographs of the letters and the cars driving by and the seagulls, but then he composed them into these collages that are really interesting. They are contact prints, so they’re like big prints with medium and large format negatives. When I saw him talk I felt like this is everything that I’ve been doing because he essentially was making bricks and then he was going to use the bricks to build something. And that’s what I’ve been doing. His photos were not nothing; he wrote things with them, like poems in structured form and I was really excited. I wanted to email him and invite him to my show, but I chickened out and I couldn’t do it. But then, I saw him today! I talked to him and I gave him the card. And I’m having trouble breathing right now because its just too perfect, and I know that the impermanence of life is such that I will be proved somehow wrong about my feeling of perfection.

So, 444 is just this stupid number that when it showed up seemed super meaningful in that moment and the next day it wasn’t really. I kept thinking about it though and as I kept thinking about it and doing more research things popped up that I could tie together. That’s how you write a research paper, you start somewhere and then you go and find evidence to basically prove your point. So I did that, but all the evidence was so arbitrary. People in China and many east Asian countries avoid 4 like we avoid 13. There’s no fourth floor in the elevators, because it sounds like ‘dead.’ So that’s what I tried to avoid, becoming superstitious or essentially living my life based on actual rules that are not flexible and are not understood within a context. I used 444 as a starting point fully aware that it meant nothing but aware that it was an empty vessel that I could inject with certain qualities.

NB: You seem to be touching on ideas of coincidence or chance, and I am curious how much you are thinking about those.

SM: I got excited about the word chance and how it relates to the I Ching and creating a system so that its no longer in your control. Putting numbers in a hat and then drawing number, that is chance. Nayland didn’t tell us when our thesis shows would be, it was up to the powers that be. But of course sometimes I think I was meant to go second.

I recently found that what is more interesting about chance is that its actually quite unique to lens based art. Think of the ready-made sculpture, that kind of thinking was only possible because of photography. That is important because when you are painting something you as the artist have authority over every single mark that is made and you’re responsible for every decision. I do like to draw and I lost my camera for a long time when I first moved here and so I started drawing. I only draw from life, like still lives or on the train or portraits of people who sat for me. So in that case, you’re looking at what you’re drawing and everything that you see and decide to draw gets essentially developed onto your long exposure drawing. Photography doesn’t work that way, because in photography you don’t have control over those things. You can construct sets where everything was a choice that you made but you’re not in total control. With painting you can mix your paints, make your own paper, whatever, but photography is so much more industrial. For a long time I wanted to have that total authority but you can’t. You buy film that someone manufactured, and then you get your camera and cameras are always advancing in new technologies. So when you’re photographing something, that is actually exciting I realize now, because that means your camera is your independent variable. You set up a system that is your camera and then you frame it and you wait for something to happen there. You don’t even know whats happening in there, you see it later. So that’s what is interesting about chance. It just comes down to the science of developing silver gelatin prints and being consistent about your chemical mixing and your exposure and all those things so you can just identify the one thing that you need to change and thats how you have to work. So I just think of cameras as objects that measure change in that sense.

NB: What was your process like in figuring out what would be in this show and deciding how to arrange it? Because that is something that can’t really be left to chance.

SM: Yeah I know, and that was really hard for awhile because I wanted it to be chance. I mean, I wanted chance but what I really wanted was the kind of language that is mostly prevalent in filmmaking. In film you’re so responsible; its such a collaborative effort and the production value is so high. Every surface and what is in the frame is considered and it means something. Particularly in Matthew Barney’s films, the kind of imagery he uses is so specific to his own language. An image means something in the context of his work but it doesn’t actually mean anything. It just means something because you’ve seen it before and now you’re seeing it again in a little bit of a different way. Like with a song, the first time you hear the chords its one thing, and then the chorus is always the same but when you hear it again its a little bit different.

So I basically started thinking and I gave myself a division. Over the summer, I didn’t really make photographic work with film. I did a lot of digital stuff but I wasn’t working on my thesis. So when I came back I began working on my thesis. All of the stuff that I tried to do in the first semester was an attempt to do a very specific show and not just make a lot of work and then put it all together into something. I feel like I really did that with the book that I made last year. I had done all of the assignments in all sorts of crazy ways and I did everything I could in terms of making performance, sculpture, and far out shit. Then I put it together chronologically and that sealing it within two hardbound covers gives it cohesion. But for the show I didn’t want it to be a retrospective in any way; I wanted it to be a specific project. And so I tried to construct a system of working for myself that would carry me though that. But, the system became really boring immediately. And that became obvious because I actually didn’t do as much as I thought I was going to. I was procrastinating because I wasn’t really excited, and I just knew internally that this thing I’d set up was bound to fail. But I did end up making a significant number of photos and they’re all photos like Jeff Whetstone’s. They’re just bricks that I built with.

So, a real break-through happened a couple months ago. I basically printed out all my contact sheets and I just had this stack of all my pictures. I just went through and made selections and edited down and cut them out. I had all these little cards and started just playing around with them on a table. At that moment, I still thought that chance might still be a totally valid approach here. I started throwing pictures and I would examine wherever they landed. But then I realized that unless I just threw them all up and left them all exactly how they were, I wasn’t getting rid of this fact that no one was going to trust that it was chance. I had edited, I had curated. Being a photographer now more than ever is about curating. This program especially has taught me that. You can shoot everyday and its not necessarily going to help clarify what it is that you want to show or say. That was fun to play around with the opportunity of chance and how things came together randomly, but what really happened was I was just able to see everything laid out and look at the kinds of conversations that happen between the images. Then I set up sequences that were built out of structures made by pushing polarities.If I have one image then I thought about the opposite of that and I kind of built out from that.

Then I was thinking that this is a show that essentially has three gallery spaces: two galleries and the hallway. I want those to each serve their own kind of role. I’m less interested now in autonomous images, but for a while I believed in the sincere significance of context. I still thought that maybe I could make good singular images, and I don’t think that I can. I don’t really think that anyone can. I think that people only appreciate singular images because they like the photographer who made them. They understand why they like it, and that is all built on context. So its really hard to just walk in blind and see something. That comes back to music. I never could listen to music that someone hadn’t given me on a mixtape or from a radio station that I like. Its so rare to just hear it and feel like its amazing without having an understanding of why it holds an emotional significance for you. So, then I just started thinking about the three spaces and how hopefully one of them is really about the singularity of images. The images are printed at different sizes. Everyone in this program acts like every picture has it own proper size and I think ok, maybe. However, I spent a lot of time this year photographing things from the exact same distance, knowing that my camera had a particular ratio that I would adhere to. It works nicely because that was the intention all along, that they have that kind of equivalence. They’re all the same but then they’re not because some are higher and some are lower. Even if they were all the same size and on the same plane, some of them you like more for whatever particular reason. So in a sense it destroys hierarchy but it doesn’t really.

NB: You spoke a bit about bookmaking. I know that you’ve made several books and spend a lot of time with books, so I would like to know where books play into this show or just your practice in general.

SM: I think that the really important lesson from books for me is typologies. The way Ed Ruscha did Twenty Six Gasoline Stations is a way to make a book be one idea in a variation of a theme. I like books for different reasons than that as well because to a certain extent, that is easily exhausted. I like a book because its a really intimate experience reading a book and thats amazing. A book of text, like a novel, is not the kind of book I’m talking about, its not like a book object. That’s just a bunch of words that take you into an illusion of an image. With photo books you can run through them at whatever pace you want and you’ll never go through them at the same pace twice. You can stay on every third image for 20 seconds and one second for the other pages, but you still get this kind of narrative. I actually really like when I can pick up a book and get it right away, and I don’t actually even have to read it. People are always talking about closing down, you want to open up. I hear that, but I really enjoy that fleeting moment of understanding. Any good book is worth reading twice and any good movie is worth watching many times, and so its nice to live with the book and be able to open to a random page. There you have a nice chance operation. Roland Barthes, I believe, would pick up every book and flip to page 49 and decide from that page whether or not to buy it. You can read one sentence the way that poetry is maybe meant to be read where you analyze thoroughly whats going on in that particular micro scale. Then you can also pull back and think about the whole book and the chapters and the arc of it. That pull that you can have is really what I wanted to bring to a gallery show. Being able to think about the structure of the thing as a whole entity but also being able to go into a single spot and focus on that. For the longest time I thought I was going to have display cases with books in the show but I am really glad that I didn’t do that. It is a different thing than a book but it can be thought of through similar approaches.