Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Gift From the River: Dominique Labauvie @ Bleu Acier

Bleu Acier is the Tampa Heights studio where Dominique Labauvie creates his internationally - acclaimed steel sculptures and his wife, Master Printer Erika Greenberg-Schneider collaborates with many artists bringing works of art to life on paper. They and their daughter live in a space in the same building.

Work by Dominique Labauvie
Dominique recently showed two sculptures in the front gallery space in the building. Both were made of steel from the Columbus Drive bridge, which is being restored. The metal bits from which these works are fashioned were replaced by new pieces. Notice there are many holes in the Carnegie steel from where the rivets used to be that held the metal together. As Dominique explained, the rivets allow the structure to give a tiny bit, taking the stresses better. His daughter happened by the bridge and noticed the sheets of metal laid aside, asked for, and was given a sample to take home to show her father. He asked for and was given more than enough for his sculptures, thus the title of the series, "A Gift From the River".

These sheets of steel were cut into long, slender strips just a little bigger than the rivet holes, giving them a light, airy feel, and some transparency, things one normally does not associate with steel. Laubavie's process begins on the floor. Materials are laid out on the concrete floor or a slab outside, composed, and welded together into gestural forms possessing an unusual measure of spontaneity and liveliness. Laubavie talks about music, literature, calligraphy and choreographed space in his work. He and Erika are cultured people. A normal perception of sculpture is that of a 3D object occupying space, projecting into it. Sculpture, being 3D, relates to its space, but like other art forms can extend outside its own form using space and time appropriating and using them as part of the work.  

Dominique Labauvie, "Galileo's Moons".  Photo courtesy of Bleu Acier

"Galileo's Moons", like "Venus Walks", has round "feet". These are steel cannonballs made by a firm in Illinois. Note that there are four feet/balls, the same as the number of moons that Galileo discovered orbiting the planet Jupiter. Galileo dutifully named them after his benefactor, who renamed them "Medicea Sidera" (Medicean Stars). The names that we know them by, Io, Ganymede, Europa and Callisto (all Zeus' lovers) came from Simon Darius, who independently discovered these same four moons within days of Galileo. By discovering that Jupiter had what he thought were planets orbiting it, Galileo came to the conclusion that the Ptolemaic model (earth as the hub of the universe) was incorrect. Just a few years later, Galileo's moon observations were used by Ole Roemer to ascertain the speed of light with a small margin of error in 1676. This sculpture is in some ways akin to a planetary model with a tall vertical axis standing in for Jupiter's gravity -- and Zeus' ties to four of his lovers. Between the cannonball lunar feet and the holes we get a sense of rhythm and repetition. If steel could sing, this would be one of its chants.

Dominique Laubavie, "Venus Walks"
"Venus Walks", shown on the left with its creator, Dominique Labauvie, is similar in construction and even design to its confrere, but very different. He says they aren't hommages to the bridge, yet they partially echo its movement. For that matter, it is hard to ignore that they echo the angularity his own form, though that's probably coincidence.

This work has a stride alluding to the walking in the title. When Venus walked, all around her Spring Followed: Flowers bloomed, birds sang and followed, fruit grew and ripened on the vine. She was like an axis (note the axis in the sculpture) of vitality to Nature. There's a poem by Shelley titled "Epipsychidion" in which he describes Venus Walking:

'Athwart that wintry wilderness of thorns
Flashed from her motion splendour like the morn's,
And from her presence life was radiated
Through the grey earth and branches bare and dead;
So that her way was paved and roofed above
With flowers as soft as thoughts of budding love;'

                                                                      --- Shelley.

There is also at least one painting on this theme, inspired by the poem above. It is by Sir William Blake Richmond:

'Venus and Anchises', by Sir William Blake Richmond (1842 - 1921) 

Venus is not just out for a stroll. She is in Love, the kind of love that disregards the rules (is there any other kind?) and on her way to meet her mortal lover, the Trojan Shepherd Anchises, who cowers in a mix of fear (of being turned into stone, as most mortals who dared gaze upon the Gods were), awe and lust. They will produce a child named Aeneas, ancestor of Rome.

There's also an astronomical angle to this work. Venus recently "walked across the sun" in a transit that will not be repeated in this century. 
One might think that these two extraordinary sculptures are more than enough, but there's more.

Erika Greenberg-Schneider with print from "Rock, Wood, Water, Earth"
 This talented duo of artists and their daughter, journeyed out to the American West on a working vacation. They took thousands of photos and upon their return, they collaborated to produce "Rock, Wood, Water, Earth", a stunning print portfolio consisting of drawings/woodcuts printed onto photogravures by Erika Greenberg-Schneider. This portfolio is one of the strongest, most exquisitely conceived and printed works I have ever seen. People ask or tell me where they stand on the false duality of concept vs. process, most nowadays leaning towards the former. My answer to this is "everything matters", and this portfolio embodies that. It is the kind of work that rivets your attention, lights your hair on fire, and catapults you into mythic time, all in a few seconds. Every print is something one could live with for a lifetime. The pictures do not do it justice. You can see more of it online here [Link].

Dominique and Erika are two cultural treasures the Bay area is lucky to have in our midst. Their level of commitment, experience, and fluency in art is rare, and they are grounded, down to earth people. I want to thank them for an enchanting afternoon, and congratulate them for producing first-rate work.

--- Luis

No comments:

Post a Comment