Cyprien Gaillard Uncovers LA

Danielle Rago
May 5, 2013 9:30PM

French artist Cyprien Gaillard, known for his documentary work dealing with the processes of decay and destruction, is the subject of a small solo exhibit at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles that addresses the immediate landscape of Southern California through its reflection upon meanings and memories of time past. Through collage-work, sculptures and photographs, Gaillard produces a sense of history within a city that’s so often preoccupied with its future that it forgets to look at its past. Gaillard addresses this conflict in the images he takes, collages he assembles, and artifacts he collects. By continuously asking viewers to rethink everyday images in the contemporary landscape from manhole coverings in the city streets to pavement on the sidewalks and excavation cranes in the desert to the 405, Gaillard reveals how these processes of construction and deconstruction alter our perception of space and time. 

As part of the cross-cultural initiative Ceci n’est pas…Art between France and Los Angeles, the artist developed the works on view during a residency program in Los Angeles during late 2011 to early 2012. It was here that he created this anthropological series of explorations that reflect upon his fascination with the varied contradictions of the built environment.

Gates, 2012 were the first drawings produced by the artist upon his arrival in Los Angeles. Meandering around the city, Gaillard was drawn to the manhole coverings that populated the streets, which were also evidence of the tension between locale and culture. On the surface, they reveal an interesting relationship between time and locale, reading "City of Los Angeles" followed by "Made in India." The artist produced a series of drawings representative of this dichotomy, carefully rubbing graphite on paper positioned on the covers themselves. These subtle pencil drawings reveal a hidden layer to the city's identity.

Westwood Cracks, (Ice Age), 2012, derivative of past work by the artist is a set of Polaroid photographs taken by Gaillard while roaming through the streets of Westwood, the town immediately surrounding the Hammer Museum. This series documents the cracks and fault lines in the pavement of the city streets, highlighting both the deterioration of material and instability of place overtime.  The work also addresses the relationship between pedestrian and city, oftentimes overlooked in a city dominated by cars.

Once captured, the images are subjected to a development process in which photographs are dipped in a bucket of ice water to draw out vivid purple and blue hues, almost freezing the image in time and place. The images are then framed similarly to most of the artist’s collage prints and mounted diagonally within beveled matting, adding to the image’s depth that otherwise would be impossible to convey.

Untitled, 2012 features excavator bucket teeth pristinely exhibited in coriander vitrines designed under the advisory of the National History Museum of Berlin. These contemporary artifacts come out of a series of work Gaillard produced around demolition sites around the world throughout his travels, looking at bulldozers and other heavy machinery that are responsible for both creating and destroying building, landscape, and consequently, memory.

 The exhibition is on view at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles through August 4, 2013.

Images Courtesy Hammer Projects: Cyprien Gaillard.  Photos Copyright Cyprien Gaillard, Courtesy Sprueth Magers Berlin London. Installation view at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. April 20-August 4, 2013, photos by Robert Wedemeyer. 

Danielle Rago