THOMAS CANTO, JAVIER MARTIN and ALBERTO PERAL
Summer Show 2015.07.04 - 08.30
Three artists - one from France, one from the Basque region, and one from Southern Spain - form the legs of this summer exhibition. Like the wooden stools ubiquitous along Shanghai’s streets during summer, the show provides a fresh perspective from which to watch and ruminate.
French artist Thomas Canto, born 1979, visited Shanghai in 2014 as part of the Look Through exhibition at Bund 18. He was one of several street artists - including Jonone, Poesia, André, and Kartre - to creatively rampage through what had previously been an Ermenegildo Zegna store on the city’s prestigious Bund. His work for that exhibition was a three dimensional expression of optical art, a detonation of black and white lines and shards that, though still, seemed intensely dynamic. For the new show at Matthew Liu Fine Arts, Canto creates colorful 2D versions of this sort of 3D work, like forensic photographs taken away to be scrutinized in private.Canto’s pieces have names you’d expect to read on a juice bar menu - including City Sunrise, Energy Burst and White Deep - but are more reminiscent of technological and urban structures than anything found in nature. Meticulous, precise works such as Perspective Square suggest grids of skyscraper windows receding into the stratospheric distance, or the racks of washing poles and power lines that crisscross the much lower altitudes of Shanghai lane house balconies.
Hailing from Santurce, Spain, Alberto Peral, born 1966, uses similarly sharp, precise marks to more lyrical effect in his subtly manipulated images of rooms and buildings. White triangles resembling rays of light or paper darts appear in his images before, on closer inspection, they resolve into X-Acto knife cutouts. Peral is careful to leave the cut away paper dangling from the image, curls of three dimensionality that, in works such as Ayasofya give the feeling that it’s not just the paint on dilapidated buildings that is peeling, but some more fundamental part of the social fabric that is coming undone.In other works, Peral’s cuttings add to rather than undermine the substance of their scenes. The white underside of the paper takes on its own reality in, for instance, Topkapi and San Salvador en Chora, where they seem like they could be sculptures positioned in the scenes they’re cut from, waiting for viewers to circle and admire from all sides. The versatility of this simple technique is further evidenced in Eminonu and Pension Ideal, where the paper is made to ‘pile up’ on a chair and a dining room table, as if it is burst cushion stuffing or a discarded tea towel.
Javier Martin, born 1985, also cuts away at photographs, though his excisions are more aggressive and transformative. He cuts up portraits of celebrities, leaving a scaffolding of lines suggestive of an architectural sketch or the polygons of 3D game graphics. In most of the works, the eyes, cheeks and foreheads are removed and, with the exception of Marilyn Monroe whose entire face has been excised, the nose and mouth are preserved. The people Martin selects, and the portraits of them he chooses, are so iconic that they can still be identified: Brigitte Bardot, Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso. Like cutouts created in the Chinese tradition of paper cutting, Martin’s works are representational. Returning to the West for a moment, the grey lines that form the skeleton of these portraits are equally suggestive of the lead came in stained glass windows depicting saints and martyrs. These dead celebrities are icons in the Christian sense, installed in a cathedral of the artist’s imagination.
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