Laurent Proux - One Piece At A Time - Semiose gallery, Paris. Until June 15, 2013

Jun 15, 2013 4:23PM

Laurent Proux
One piece at a time

May 18th - June 15th
Opening Saturday May 18th from 2pm to 9pm

In both his drawing and his painting, Laurent Proux has developed a singular relationship with photography. In the same manner as numerous artists since Richter and Polke, the photographic image acts as a neutral and objective starting point allowing the artist to depict both realistic elements and more abstract peripheral aspects in a sometimes vertiginous interchange. He is however unique inconstituting a kind of directory or archive of industrial production sites dating from the seventies. There are “found images” – instruction manuals from the GDR, operating accounts from businesses dating from 1976 – as well as photographs taken himself or by friends at their workplaces. The works on display at this and his previous exhibition at the Semiose gallery show factories, warehouses, workshops, offices, IT centres, production lines, tools and machines, which seem as out-dated to the spectator as the iconography of hot air balloons and antique engravings put to use by Polke. For Laurent Proux, the 70s represent a period of change when the production of material goods in a concrete manner gave way to the massive implantation of computer technology, dematerialising human endeavour and announcing the arrival of the present-day globalisation of industry. When photographer Lewis Baltz exhibited computer cabling in his installation La Ronde de Nuit, he was expressing in a similar way that the reality of our world has become invisible.The element of exteriority in his assessment and his painted work persists in the artworks presented in the current exhibition. Thus his analysis endures and is confirmed by these cold and hostile spaces, from which any trace of human presence is banished apart from a few anonymous, hand-written inscriptions: graffiti, noughts and crosses, crosswords taken from free daily newspapers… Is there some kind of derisory resistance in all this? Nobody knows. One attractive new aspect is that the simple singular image – the payphone shop, the untidy office of the computer technician, the telephone switchboard – has exploded into something more complex. A form of interiority appears within the juxtapositions, the collage or montage – it is up to each individual to choose the term he prefers – and occasional superposition of transparent components, using a multitude of heterogeneous images, some demonstrating extreme pictorial virtuosity, others a diabolically minute attention to detail, a mysterious geographic element or perhaps a depiction of secret heraldry. An enormous machine for printing brightly coloured patterns on cloth – a painting machine – overshadows a crossword and smudges of newspaper ink – but smudges that have been painted. Elsewhere, we come across the same machine, seen from a different angle, its upper surfaces decorated with strange playing cards. A flock of birds positioned next to a production line. William Burroughs’ Scrapbooks, where the writer collected photos cut out from the press and those taken himself with the intention that their juxtaposition would produce some meaning that only he himself could discern, work in a similar fashion between exteriority and imagination, obsolescence and memory, areas of concrete imagery and the terra incognita of painting. This exhibition - A Piece at a Time, takes its name from a Johnny Cash song. An automobile production line worker each day steals one part of a car hoping, undoubtedly in vain, to finally construct his own free car. Today, Laurent Proux paints in the same manner, one piece at a time not in the hope that one day all the different parts will produce a complete image but more justifiably in the hope that one day painting will win through.

Brice Matthieussent