Philippe Decrauzat: For the Birds

Installation shots from Philippe Decrauzat's self-titled exhibition. Images courtesy of Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York.

For his first show at Elizabeth Dee Gallery, Swiss artist Philippe Decrauzat has created a hypnotic environment where painting and sculpture collapse into a treacherous nightmare. Entering the gallery the viewer confronts a group of brooding matte black monochromes arranged in a swastika formation, which is inspired by a 1929 design for a bench by László Moholy-Nagy. Turning the corner you face a six-picture series of guillotine blade-shaped canvases, lined up on opposite walls like soldiers before the clash of armed conflict. A group of portentous black bars are haphazardly propped against the gallery's walls in random places. At the conclusion of the exhibition's opening night one of these large "thermolacquered" steel bars came crashing to the floor. No one was hurt. The cacophony confirmed for everyone that they had not just experienced a pure fiction.
   
The standout piece is a 16-mm film of digitally edited footage from the title sequence of Hitchcock's classic film The Birds, an eyes tickling adventure in black silhouettes. It's a four-minute précis on the simplicity of Hitchcockian horror in which an ordinary and seemingly harmless scene of flying birds rapidly evolves into a feverish swarm, and a high-frequency attack on the visual cortex. Much of Decrauzat work references the path that light and sound take as they travel in waves through space. He fashions his art in a slick, superficial style better known to Russian Constructivism or Op Art, but Decrauzat is selective when preying on their conceptual strategies. There is an indescribable sort of beauty when consonance meets dissonance, whether in music (a Steve Reich score for example) or in visual art (the disorientation of staring deep into a Bridget Riley painting) and when that moment arrives, Decrauzat's work dazzles.

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December 2014

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