Ron GORCHOV, Alain KIRILI - Celebration de la main: l'art de Ron Gorchov et Alain Kirili
Galerie Jean-Luc & Takako Richard is pleased to present a joint exhibition by Ron Gorchov and Alain Kirili from 19th October to 30th December. This exhibition not only celebrates a long lasting friendship between the two artists which began when Kirili moved to New York in the seventies, but also a great artistic understanding between a painter and a sculptor. Both are abstract artists who create shapes of organic simplicity and for whom the trace of the artist’s own gesture is extremely important. The works possess a tactile and sensuous quality revealing their relationship with the body which becomes the most important point of reference.
One may be surprised to find themselves talking about a tactile and sensuous relationship with regards to a painting. It has partly to do with the gently curved shapes of the canvas stretched over the wooden curves of the frame. But it also has to do with the way in which Gorchov paints : his use of very liquid paint, the effect produced by superimposing various different layers, the thick brushstrokes, the rough quality of the edges where the canvas is attached to the frame, the simple and gentle shapes in the center of the paintings… Ron Gorchov inserts similar abstract shapes into various different curved spaces. The smaller the work, the more exaggerated the curve. Whilst inventing curved frames in the sixties, Ron Gorchov revolutionized painting by introducing it into a three dimensional space without creating any kind of illusionism. For more than forty years he has been a pioneer of aesthetic experimentation with the insertion of shapes and textures into curved spaces. The combination of the canvas’ physical depth and the painting’s illusionist quality provides us with an entirely new set visual experiences. Ron Gorchov is one of the most highly esteemed artists amongst his contemporaries in New York. In the painting Martha, the background color is a mixture of white and green. On the right hand side the green dominates, being the darkest background color. The painting was exhibited in a room where the natural light came from the left, from a distance it was therefore difficult to discern whether the right-hand side of the painting was actually a darker color or if it was simply in shadow. The visual effects of both painting and sculpture in Martha work together to strengthen one another. In the big picture Café Serin, we find entirely the opposite effect. A pale yellow circular shape stands out from a dark blue background, the inner part of the yellow circle is then a lighter blue. The result is an optical allusion which gives depth to the inner light blue section, pushing it further away from us even though in physical terms it is in fact at the front of the painting. The effects of paint and sculpture therefore oppose one another and it is interesting to note that it is the painting that triumphs over the physical reality of the curved frame.
Alain Kirili was keen to start up a dialogue between his and Ron Gorchov’s work. Yet again he demonstrates his enthusiasm for artistic meetings and exchanges, whether they be with masters of fine art or of music and dance… This too shows his intellectual engagement which has always lead to a better appreciation of the artists he holds in great esteem. Over the past few years, Alain Kirili’s works have tended towards a greater organic simplicity and lightness of form. In this exhibition he presents three series of sculptures as well as some drawings : the terra cotta works of the Adamah series, the ironwork sculptures of the Equivalence series and the Funambule series. The title of the Equivalences sculptures is inspired by the fact that they can each be exhibited in three different positions. They are « minimalist » geometric shapes brought together in such an innovative way that it is always possible to find three positions of balance. These works imply notions of movement, improvisation, precariousness and lightness. In the new works of Funambule this idea is pushed even further and these characteristics become evermore apparent. For Kirili the title is reminiscent of a book by Jean Genet that discusses the ethics of risk in the Creation. The groups of vertical bars which alternate with both raw and painted ironwork placed against a wall with different spacing between each one develop a unique pattern. The metal is pounded in such a way that it appears to have been molded by the palm of a hand. Even as Kirili delves into the depths of visual simplicity, sensuality, body and flesh impregnate his works. When talking about Kirili’s iron bars which he places against the wall, Carter Ratcliff comments that « They are free to fall, and in this freedom one hears an echo of Existentialist talk about the precariousness of life. Of course, Existentialism was grim – a philosophy of angst. If the Funambule sculptures express angst, it is angst evolving into joy at the sheer clarity of their forms, their situation, and, indeed, their meaning.» (1)
(1) Carter Ratcliff : The Animating Hand : The Art of Ron Gorchov and Alain Kirili ; exhibition brochure published by Galerie Jean-Luc & Takako Richard ; text in French and in English.
« The Animating Hand » : this is what two artists offer you at the Galerie Jean-Luc & Takako Richard through December 30th. If Alain Kirili and Ron Gorchov both celebrate the hand, they each celebrate it in their own manner, one being a sculptor and the other a painter.
The French artist (Kirili), who lives and works in New York and Paris, shows that his hand possesses more than savoir faire. The exhibition is split between forged iron sculptures, modeled clay pieces, drawings on tracing paper, and paintings (gouache, watercolor, ink) on paper. Whatever the chosen technique, the artist has ambition, and he succeeds in reworking space by the positive and negative space confront each other. Another characteristic that can be spotted immediately is the energy put into this work. A video showing that artist at work confirms this(1). It requires an incredible amount of energy to throw one piece of earth into another before squeezing and encircling it as he does. Strength and enthusiasm are necessary to hammer iron with a sledgehammer (2). Even drawing expressively on paper requires the engagement of all the power within the artist’s body. If his body lets itself be taken away by the force and repetition of his actions, his critical judgment remains present; his spirit awakens and controls the result. While not essential to sculptures, color is not missing from his. Some iron pieces are painted in white, others dressed in red. In the blocks made of clay, red ochre glides into the gray, green lets itself be enclosed by brown. The visitor appreciates the diversity in these approaches, his avid gaze could either lose itself in the dips and trenches built into the clay sculptures, or endlessly bounce off of the facets of the hammered iron works.
The use of forging on sculpture is not very common. There is a strong desire in his creations to destroy iron’s impersonal, industrial form and make it into something more human. The titles of certain pieces confirm it: Adam I, Adam II. The indents resulting from the forging are at the same time places that welcome the visitors gaze and concavities that reflect it back in multiple directions. This characteristic (reflecting back one’s gaze) asks the viewer think about how optics affect the comprehension of a sculpture. Looking at it does not suffice. It is in front of these types of pieces that we can use other senses as well, and that is just what is proven here. Alain Kirili succeeds at giving each one of his sculptures not just visual qualities, but also tactile ones. The artist’s ability to think about the visual through the tactile is particularly evident in his hand-modeled pieces. The clay works are receptacles of force. The viewer feels the pressure of the artist’s palms and distinguishes the impressions made by his individual fingers. The apparent joy of the martyred piece intrigues the viewer, and he wonders about the first scene. What original accident led to such sensual metamorphoses? The piece of art, that big mute, doesn’t give the answers; they are of course unique to each sculpture.
Alain Kirili’s sculptures, more than any others, create their own space. The space in which they are placed is no longer neutral, it becomes a place of converging forces (3). The forged iron sculptures invite interaction. These interactions go through the eye, it is after all a visual art form, and in some cases activate corporeal reactions in the visitor. These sculptures are invitations to other bodies. As the video about the artist shows, he sometimes invites dancers to examine the plasticity of their bodies with his works, or sometimes he invites jazz musicians to envelope them in their syncopated rhythms (4). These moments of contact with the pieces bring them back to their genesis. While these plastic productions (iron, clay, drawings) are mute and are generally contemplated in silence, their creation was accompanied by specific noises coming from the rustle of the coal to the rhythmic sounds of striking the hot iron, passing through the dull sounds made by a piece of clay as an energetic gesture throws it against another. One can still hear the dull and contained groans of the clay in the titles of these sculptures: A-da-mah, A-da-mah, A-da-mah… and the short, powerful cries of the iron at the moment it is struck. As Tom Mitchell recently said: “Pure vision attaches itself to the entire spectrum of senses, particularly the sense of touch (5).” This multi-sensual aspect of Kirili’s work helps with their translation. Like in the case of the dancer, who interprets the sculpture through improvised movements that translate the artist’s creative gestures – those of his hands, arms, and legs, all connected at a central point in his back. That’s where it hurts. Acknowledging this exquisite pain allows the artist to hope to infuse the work with an authenticity that can become a source of acute joy for the perceptive viewer.
Kirili is a man of fire. There is always something that ignites in him, whether he is speaking or creating art. This is evident in the generative gestures of his work. The iron knows the forge’s fire before it takes shape; the clay gain their strength and final appearance after being fired; the primary element in his drawings and paintings is charcoal made from burnt wood. This artist is not a sculptor who removes material, he prefers to add it. A clay becomes trapped inside another (Adamah IX, 2008). After modeling, each piece of iron tends to become associated with another. The relationship can be functional like when a modeled piece of clay serves as a pedestal (Adam I, 2009) or when a another piece of iron increases the ways in which the sculpture can stand (like in Equivalences IX, 2009) but the relationship can also respond to an aesthetic problem. Thus the simple juxtaposition of seven iron bars (Funambules VII, 2008), placed parallel to each other leaning against the wall, proves to be very effective.
Back to the marks: the clay and iron materials have preserved the marks of human action, like memories of the action, of actions done by the hand of man in another time. One of the attributes of photography is its ability to capture a moment in time with a ray of light. These works, which we could call chirographic (6), are interesting in part due to the time trapped in the material just as the artist wanted it. Why did he put that indent there and not just in front of it? Simply because it relates to the sensibility of the sculptor at any given moment. He creates a stop, a voluntary stop, a completion in the unfinished. Like Giacometti, whom he references, Alain Kirili is careful of this completion. He avoids the smooth as much as he does the stopping the eye’s path. One’s eye does not glide over his sculptures, it bounces off and, on the long stem of Forge I (2008), the feeling of repetition approaches the same sense of movement and height seen in the endless column by Brancusi.
Sculptural infinity is, without doubt the quest Alain Kirili has been pursuing for years.
Though they are abstract, Ron Gorchov’s paintings keep the body as a reference point. The paintings strengthen their presence as body-objects by the presence of a stretcher that doesn’t try to hide its handmade quality. This stretcher, with its thickness (between 14 and 38 cm) and its curved shape serves as the support for painted linen canvas, simply stapled on. Pairs of colored forms are painted on these canvases. Two opposing spatial considerations present themselves: from the front they take on the illusory spatiality of painted objects, from the side the singular volume of the support structure draws the viewer’s attention. One realizes that Ron Gorchov, in launching himself into the shaped canvas, wanted to shake up tradition: the surface of a painting does not need to be rectangular – here all the corners are rounded – and it does not need to imitate the flat wall on which it is hung. These non-canvases (7) acquire a certain presence, a pseudo human presence, in the space where they are displayed which catches the viewer’s gaze.
The canvases are painted in successive strokes of color. A subtle balance between the weak presence of the pictorial material – the transparence of the paint leaves the canvas underneath partly visible – and the intensity of the colors. Yellows, reds, and blues are always supported without being bright, go well with the clay sculptures. In the center, like on the edges, the brushstrokes remain visible. In Gorchov’s work, plastic subtlety finds itself in the limits, the limits of the shapes just as much as the limits of the canvas on the stretcher. For each color, the visible brushstrokes mark the minute differences in tone. Each painting represents only one figure, constituted of a number of abstracted painted shapes. In this rarefaction of marks, all the small stray brushstrokes gain added importance. As some painters know very well, such as Mark Rothko, the use of tiny variations can prove to be source of great pleasure. Here the painted shapes have been stripped of all metaphysical sense. They are visual facts, nothing is really more important than that. These works frustrate because they are impossible to interpret. The object is nothing more than a painting (stretcher and canvas) without becoming necessarily something else, like a shield. The figures painted on the canvases stapled to the stretchers are intermediaries between allusive human figures and architectural representations. Their centrality in the paintings may evoke faces; their silhouettes may evoke the ghosts of actors evolving on stage. The creation of these images does not seem to have stirred any lasting effect. They are painted, neither well nor badly, simply painted by a human hand. These non-paintings welcome the figures left unfinished in an intermediate state. The artist avoided perfecting them in order to avoid killing them.
Alain Kirili invited Ron Gorchov to join him in this exhibition due to their longtime friendship and also to examine the differences that appear in their creations. The sculptor, even though he produces drawings that are precisely the drawings of a sculptor, invites the painter to occupy the walls of a gallery at the same time as him. A prolific and sensual artist welcomes an older, more reserved and discreet one. One like the other works in sincerity. Their works are neither visually nor spiritually fake. Things are depicted as they are. Iron branches and clay blocks on one side, painted objects with colors put on them on the other. The other essential characteristic of this exhibition is announced in the title: the animating hand. Even if, as we have seen, things don’t stay there and lead t other celebrations of other senses and above all the spirit, here everything is made by the hand of man, and is presented as such. Nothing that defines this genre is missing: inventive manufacture, sensitive qualities of the pieces, diversity of the results. These works of art, without literal images but not without evocative shapes, open multiple imaginative possibilities. Whether bright or calm, the forces in place here go, via the tactile, to touch on a global sensibility. It is because they were touched that these artistic creations touch us in return.
(1) Alain Kirili, sculpteur de tous les éléments de Sandra Paugam, collection « À contre-temps », Groupe Galactica.
(2) Even if the exercised pressure can be the one of a machine, it is necessary to hold the bar of raw iron and to hold it hardly.
(3) A few iron forged sculptures (those titled equivalences) can be arranged in various manners: raised vertical or put horizontally, placed in the center of a space or rested against a wall. The vision changes and the evocations suggested also.
(4) The title of Alain Kirili’s monumental sculpture settled in 2007 in Paris, Espace Masséna, in the 13th district, is Tribute to Charlie Parker.
(5) Tom Mitchell, in ” what want the images? ” Crossed Interview with Jacques Rancière, led by Patrice Blouin, Maxime Boidy and Séphane Roth, Art press n° 362, p. 34.
(6) Word builds on the model of “photograph”, here the kept tracks are not any more the ones provoked the light but those left by the action of man’s hand. The Greek word for the hand to kheir looked in chiro French.
(7) The non-flatness of these works does not predispose them to be tabula (boards to be written) and some more surfaces on which we can put objects or dishes of tables). No relationship with the bulletin board is wanted and the artist goes away volunta