Sean Crossley - Rénovation de la Bourse

Sean Crossley - Rénovation de la Bourse

The exhibition emerges from a broader set of ideas developed throughout a residency at the WIELS Centre for Contemporary Art in Brussels; a search for ways to employ painting in order to synthesize or invert public infrastructural systems with bodily systems.
From inside the metro station, Crossley takes us out again. The fences, or obstructions seemed to make a case in point of how painterly realism and abstraction exist simultaneously inside and outside of painting.
Building on previous works from his exhibition “Recreational Painting,” the exhibition demonstrates Sean Crossley’s desire to challenge specific polemics in contemporary painting such as the distinction of abstraction as a genre rather than a process, or figuration being used as a symbolic support for a painter’s self-fulfillment without addressing problems inherent to representation. It could be suggested that to move through this rather traditional set of problems you need to affirm and emphasize the feedback loops of time and space that painterly experience produces – within and beyond the canvas. The challenge then becomes one of condensing complexities, socializing formalisms and respecting the stillness of a painting to avoid falling into a cycle of explanation or justification.
The series of internal, gestural passages of red and blue paint in early phases of the painting Circulateur suggest a human circulatory system, the oxygenization and recycling of depleted blood. The artist highlights parallels in the metro stop Bourse (not so far from his home), which was being renovated and provided a wealth of worksite materials and ruin to observe and document: turnstiles, security systems, fences that protect and dominate public circulation.
Sean Crossley, "Circulateur", installation view "Rénovation de la Bourse", WIELS Project Room, 2021
These barriers or obstructions that dictate passage become an unsuspecting metaphor for how the more a painterly image is elaborated and refined, its avenues for interpretation risk becoming more channeled and restricted.
Sean Crossley, exhibition view "Rénovation de la Bourse", WIELS Project Room, 2021
Across from the turnstiles in the Bourse metro stop, there is a set of escalators, that Crossley reimagined as some kind of cognitive or neurological system. This is perhaps because of the head-down cliché experience of the body, but also the persistent recurrence of staircases throughout modernism as a symbolic threshold, or a motif of ascension or comprehension.
Sean Crossley, exhibition view "Rénovation de la Bourse", WIELS Project Room, 2021
Via this prism, an automatic staircase that was broken down or out of order, seemed to be quite a fitting subject: an improvised, almost calligraphic painting process would render the subject useless, developing a more abstract gesturing of information that pushes and pulls the levels and grounds of this space. It is worth mentioning that Crossley worked on Cirulateur and Echangeur at the same time.
At a certain point where the composition was blocked in Echangeur, he recognized the importance of a specific detail (a strange metallic cylinder placed between the turnstiles), which reflected the two spaces and began to paint a distorted reflection of one painting in the other, which led to a cycle of editing one after the other. In this way, intrinsically orientated pictures manage to reach out across the room to each other in an explicitly extrinsic manner.

From inside the metro station, Crossley takes us out again. The fences, or obstructions seemed to make a case in point of how painterly realism and abstraction exist simultaneously inside and outside of painting. These paintings, that almost approach sculptures in terms of the embodying index of their scale, were carefully developed from an idiosyncratic learning into a systematic mode of painting.
Sean Crossley, exhibition view "Rénovation de la Bourse", WIELS Project Room, 2021
Each of the four works presents a variation of a street barrier, and a variation of painterly problems or defects. Depending on what time the barrier was photographed, or how long it had been in the sun, the shadows and colours varied, thus demanding a new approach to the painting both in levels of definition or colouration. In this way, they appear almost as clocks, or sun dials, or the sun itself – artificial light exuded from the painting into space.
Each work developed a different system – the first being a gradation of colours, a ‘real pallette’, the second being a hyper-real panel leaning into points of damage, the third being a caged, gridded matrix of dulled information, and the fourth being a fictional vertical, a solar scale or a ladder of lights. Thinking of Dan Flavin, these works encapsulate another manifestation of aesthetic modernism whilst also a representation of opacity of the modern state, streamlined – power.
In the making of these works alongside Circulateur and Echangeur, the elaboration of various modernisms and how they perpetuate and localize themselves today become increasingly important to the sum of the exhibition’s parts.