Monday, February 8, 2010

Elisa Sighicelli: The Party Is Over @Gagosian

JTF (just the facts): A total of 11 color works, unframed, and sparsely hung in a series of six gallery spaces and a hallway on the fifth floor. There are 9 photographic works and two video installations. All of the photographs are partially backlit c-prints on lightboxes. Most of the images are made up of a single 48x48 panel (plugged in to an electrical outlet); two additional works are 5 panels and 2 panels respectively; a third is a smaller 23x23 single panel. All of the photographs are in editions of 3, from 2009. The two color videos are also in editions of 3, from 2006 and 2009. A catalog of the exhibition is available from the gallery for $30. (Installation shots at right, via Gagosian.)

Comments/Context: Elisa Sighicelli's straightforward nocturnal compositions glow unlike any night scenes you've seen before. The effect comes from a clever adaptation of Jeff Wall's signature lightboxes: mask out large portions of the print from the back, allowing only certain areas to show through, enhancing the contrast. The result is that the dark black areas are extremely opaque, while the brightly lit zones pulsate with vivid luminosity.

Most of the images depict massive, spotlit billboards, anonymous and often seen from behind, the glare of the illumination radiating out into the darkness. Others capture the gold glitter of a brilliant chandelier, the otherworldly glow of a planetarium, or the diffused radiance of a tangle of bamboo scaffolding that covers a building. While the compositions are unassuming, the character and quality of the light is different in each work, shading from smoky warmth to blinding pure white, alternately human and inhuman depending on the circumstances.

I particularly enjoyed one of the videos (The Party Is Over), which depicts a fireworks display running in reverse. The shards and blooms of light retreat upward, imploding, as if they were falling into a black hole. The squelching of the light happens in a regular rhythm, over and over again, twinkles and sparks disappearing into the night; the effect is successfully meditative.
The medium of photography is filled with exercises and experiments with light. These pictures are something tangentially different; they seem to be "about" light, how it conveys information, mood, and emotion, rather than a demonstration of how it is to be controlled for maximum pictorial effect. This is what is memorable here: it's not the infrastructure of the back of a billboard that matters, but the idea of its light as a beacon of truth, or an ominous consumerist nightmare, or simply an empty but beautiful abstraction, hovering in the darkness.

Collector's POV: The photographic works in the show are priced as follows. The 48x48 single panel images are $15000. The 5 panel group is $55000, while the 2 panel pair is $25000. The smaller 23x23 single panel is $10000. I didn't ask the prices for the videos. Sighicelli's work has started to appear at auction intermittently in the past few years; prices have generally ranged between $9000 and $17000, although the data set is pretty small.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Interview: Brooklyn Rail (here)
Through February 27th

Gagosian Gallery
98o Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10075

No comments: