Gagosian Gallery | March 25 – June 26, 2010

Ever wonder what it would be like to stand on the opposite side of a force field? To inhabit a space where the world around you continues to turn yet a glimpse through the looking glass reveals an identical universe frozen in static motion? We see it enacted in science fiction all the time but what might that resemble in real life? Paris-based artist Tatiana Trouvé offers a plausible answer to this line of inquiry in her U.S. gallery debut. Entering Trouvé’s modular, multi-room installation is like delving into four dimensions simultaneously: Superman’s arctically isolating Fortress of Solitude; the acid-gothic sculptural machinations of Banks Violette; Albrecht Dürer’s perspectivally tweaked reality; and the post-WWII asylum—all dashed with narrative overlays of Jorge Luis Borges and Jungian psychoanalysis. In summary, it literally stops you in your tracks. To quote Paul of Tarsus, “The world as we see it is passing.” Not here. Trouvé has found a way around the progression of time, inexorably plunging the viewer into a waking dream-state via the use of concrete cast sculptures, site-specific wall drawings and meticulously scaled environments of which even Lewis Carroll would be envious.

Tatiana Trouvé Envelopments, 2010 Mixed media installation comprising three wall drawings in graphite and charcoal with collage, floor drawings in pure copper and aluminum tape and one rock, partially lacquered Dimensions variable Copyright Tatiana Trouvé, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, Photograph by Robert McKeever.

At the core of these complex schematics is the element of time. According to Trouvé, “The only thing we know about time is how to calculate it.” As a material, this makes it extremely malleable, open for playful experimentation. The artist capitalizes on this idea, most often by freezing temporal elements as a means of inducing forced visibility—the Derridian concept of différance made tangible. Here, “Mattress” (2010), is the most powerful of these sculptural illustrations. Cast in plain concrete and tethered to a large black pole by wide leather straps (again, the asylum comes to mind), the bi-folded form seems to hang in mid-air. So complete is its sense of illusionistic reality that even its calcified body succumbs to the might of the inky restraints.

Such “petrified narratives” (as Trouvé refers to her work in a recent interview with Art in America) are only one theme in a series of similar sculptures: “Cushion No.2” (2010), also concrete-cast, appears stuffed between another pole and the gallery wall, while the site specific “Radiateurs” (2010)—a series of cement-laden heating units attached to inoperative silver piping—conjures a post-apocalyptic avalanche of associations, all of which exclude human participation or presence.

Trouvé first made her mark on the artworld with the creation of her “Bureau d’Activités Implicites” (Bureau of Implicit Activities) or “B.A.I.” as the piece is commonly known. Begun in 1997 and constructed over the course of a decade, the “B.A.I.” chronicled Trouvé's struggle to establish and maintain her life as a working artist. Through the creation of architectural modules, the newly Parisian native constructed an administrative space to house her creative efforts as well as her clerical attempts at adherence to the red-tape imbued diktats of the art world. While the artist’s more recent work is similarly calculated, it is also less autobiographical. Rendered in primarily earthen shades of charcoal, cork, concrete grey and institution white, the Gagosian space exudes an elegant yet chilly aura—that is not to take away, however, from the immense psychological underpinnings that shine through her industrial use of materials.

Copper is a recurrent substance in Trouvé’s oeuvre, chiefly employed for its conductive associations. In one room, closed circuits of the metallic tubing comprise a number of the artist’s sculptural assemblages while its presence within her wall sized drawings, or “Envelopments,” denotes a symbiotic relationship between the poetic and analytic modes of thought, vision, and memory—an electric dialogue, if you will, between four dimensions. Merging traditional landscape with ultra-modern interiors, extreme shifts in scale abound within this triptych of meticulously rendered photo-realist works (all from the 2010 “Intranquility” Series). Elsewhere, a triad of large boulders round out the feigned environment in a play of textural inlays and spatial outcroppings. As lines of copper filament zigzag through the drawings, down the wall and onto the floor, the viewer is effectively sucked into the artist’s monochromatic alt-reality. This unfolds a tautological paradox: our comfortable existence, made possible by the act of synthetic fabrication, simultaneously forces an irreparable rift between our lived reality and the natural self. In these bizarrely barren landscapes, man-made artifice battles for supremacy and we, alone, once again find ourselves isolated, on the opposite side of Trouvé’s invisible force field—in effect, frozen.

But just as the vacuum threatens to swallow us  whole, a sense of playfulness returns to the artist’s final opus. A key dangles from a miniature door, both tempting and denying entry; oil dripped gestures and sand-strewn piles reflect postmodern nods to Robert Smithson and William Anastasi through a lens of sea green-tinted Plexi-glass. It is dirtier here, more ragged, untamed. A solid point of departure, this final room exhibits a sense of balance Trouvé might well draw upon for future work.


Kara L. Rooney

Kara Rooney is a Brooklyn-based artist, writer, and critic working in performance, sculptures and new media installation. She is a Managing Art Editor for the Brooklyn Rail and faculty member at School of Visual Arts, where she teaches Art History and Aesthetics.