By Tobias Ostrander
Trained as a painter, the artistic practice of Karina Peisajovich has been strongly influenced not only by art history, but by her early experience in underground theater, where she worked in the late 80s and early 90s as a stage and costume designer. Her artwork is deeply influenced by a history of Modernist experiments with abstraction and perception, while concurrently appropriating from theater technical supports, a direct engagement with the physical exhibition space, and an active involvement in positioning the viewer-participant in the work. Her recent projects have moved from complex installations involving abstract forms painted from the gallery walls onto the floors with geometric forms projected in light, to a more reduced set of elements; small light machines projecting colored light, placed within completely darkened spaces.
For her untitled installation at the Museo Experimental El Eco, Peisajovich has significantly darkened the large gallery of the museum, covering the main window and painting the walls the same dark gray of the ceiling. Taking advantage of the significant height of this long rectangular room, the artist has projected onto the smooth surface of the ceiling. Five powerful theater lights are positioned on the floor around this room. Attached to each of these floodlights is a small motor that moves a metal rod, which in turn slowly rotates a circular glass plate above the lights. Each plate contains a transparent color wheel. As they move, the illumination projects circles of colored light onto the ceiling, colors that gradually change as each glass moves. These five lighting contraptions range in size and their projections overlap one another, creating a composition of forms. Each motor is programmed at a slightly different speed, a displacement that implies that the colors of the circles are perpetually out of sync, thereby producing a nearly endless range of color combinations in the room, as colors overlap at diverse intervals.
The motorized disks of this piece recall those used by Marcel Duchamp, in works such as Disk Bearing Spirals (1923), but without the three-dimensional effect produced by the French artist. It was Duchamp that warned of the pleasures of the eye, its comfort and tendency toward complacency. His challenges to the eye, his need to activate it in aggressive ways, is a desire shared by Peisajovich. She recognizes these challenges within her contemporary context, where the eye is easily coerced by consumer imagery. Her structuring of this artwork additionally recalls the exercises on color by the professors of the Bauhaus, specifically the teachings of Josef Albers. The artist has addressed this reference and the use of the studies of Albers in her work, identifying her particular interest in his demonstrations of how colors deceive; how they are not stable or contained entities, but perpetually contingent, producing after-image colors, a result of biological and psychic effects. Within the context of El Eco and its founder, Albers is a shared referent, as Mathias Goertiz also addressed his teachings and used them in his own influential pedagogy.
This new work structures a magical environment, creating a site for a heightened perceptual experience. Evoking a cave or planetarium, visitors are encouraged to lie on the floor in this darkness and gaze upward at the play of colored light. The particularly slow movement of the transitions of the colors draws the viewer in, slowing vision significantly. One becomes acutely conscious of our individual eye as a perceiving entity and of our imagination, as it looks to connect these abstractions to an image or comfortable referent. While these interlocking circles recall similar configurations in paint within a history of 1950s and 60s geometric abstraction, they are equally recognizable as simply the product of the mechanics involved in their production; the circular lens of the theater light, the shape of the color wheel.
Color is defined as the difference between light and darkness and it is this differentiation that creates the images we perceive in the world. Through their transience, color and light thus reveal the fragility of images and vulnerability of vision in general. This installation, through its isolation of the elements of color, light and darkness and their interrelation, looks to address this knowledge. It engages us with a simulated pre-image state, a space in which we may recognize our own processes of visual construction. The ¨image¨ it articulates is that of the act of seeing itself.
Text of the Exhibition
Museo Experimental El Eco
México, September 2010