A Question of Truth

Date: 
05/12/2011
RVDV01-2269

"Dear David Johnson" RVDV01-2269

This is the last week to see Rinus Van de Velde's work at Monique Meloche Gallery. The exhibition is entitled Dear David Johnson, a fictitious letter from the artist to a curator is hand painted on the wall. Accompanying the letter is a series of charcoal drawings. The artist refers to each exhibition as a chapter in his own fictional auto-biography. It is like walking into a film director's mind observing a storyboard prior to a film being made.

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"Dear David Johnson" RVDV01-0567

Van de Velde employs charcoal as a medium for its quick execution. The drawings are captions from the past, evoked through fashion and the content of the work. The artist refers to the images as an "archive" and the letter is dated 1963, which heightens the film noir aesthetic rendered in the drawings. In "RVDV01 0567" the character wears a large wool coat and scarf and is being sprayed with what - we don't know. But it is like an image from a Hitchcock film, the spray accentuating intense lighting. The character's face nonchalant and the man who is about to attempt his murder won't stand a chance. Is this a portrait of the artist?

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"Dear David Johnson" RVDV01-0560

The personas build up a story of the artist's fictional journey to Nepal and back to New York. The wooden paneled drawing room depicts buyers and sellers in colonial settings historically placing the work. The men in the wig shop remind me of a cigar shop in the loop that is captured in period from the past. Setting the drawings in a different time period heightens the fictional quality in the work.

In fiction, as in film there is always a tension between reality and the imagination inspiring the reader into a poetic realm. In this installation the text of the letter is not drafted literally into the images but expands the field of reference adding a greater sense of poeticism. The fascination with truth and fantasy questions the constructs of cultural mythologies perpetuated in the art world. Roland Barthes, the French philosopher explores the construct of cultural mythology and analyzes how they are constructed. Jonathan Culler suggests when writing about Barthes seminal text Mythologies:

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"Dear David Johnson" RVDV01-0565

"...it promotes a myth of literature and through this myth it acquires a role in the world." (Barthes, Culler: P36 1983)

In viewing Van de Velde's chapter at the Monique Meloche Gallery, one is bemused by the conversation that is constructed between the fictional curator and artist engaging the audience in a conversation about the art world and the artist's internal struggle with creativity. The fictional context in the work, as in fiction, explores the tenuous relationship between the art market and the artist with depictions of galleries, the artist at work in his studio and the manufacturing process. An exquisite image of people dining in a garden viewed from above framed in a tropical garden is composed with great skill. The lighting and texture of foliage expands the narrative referenced in the letter but the artist also produces drawings referencing different cultural landscapes through compositions of feet or legs in shoes reminiscent of Van Gogh's rustic shoe still lives. One of these drawings is less successful and lacks directed chiaroscuro and experimental mark-making so successfully rendered in most of the drawings.

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"Dear David Johnson" RVDV01-0559

The compositions fuse straight portraiture and still life drafted with great skill drawing parallels with Van Gogh's early charcoal drawings of the potato workers. The use of foreshortening techniques and unconventional compositions are a delight to the eye, adding to the poetic narrative that unfolds between the text and image. The size and scale of the drawings in relation to the text fit perfectly in the space at Monique Meloche. The hand painted text fuses aesthetically with the quality of the drawings transforming every inch of the space. One can start reading the text anywhere and become immediately enthralled by the unfolding details of the narrative. This exhibition is a must see and is provoking beyond the surface.

Dear David Johnson runs through to May 14 at Monique Meloche Gallery, 2154 W. Division St.

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