It is fascinating to learn how Michael and Florian Quistrebert came up with their first video piece: the artists were shooting a door slowly opening in a dark room, letting a ray of light come in from the outside, when it came to them. Imagine a simple white stripe opening up on a black background– a Barnett Newman zip translated into a moving image. It was this visual element that inspired the French artists to use a sort of technique of mutation and create abstract animations. By editing, turning upside down, multiplying and superimposing the same image in various ways, they obtained several beautiful videos reminiscent of early avant-garde cinema, such as the Whitney brothers’ abstract film animations.
The Quistreberts’ first solo show in Italy, which was produced in the residency, can be currently seen in Bologna at the Car Project Gallery. The exhibition includes one of the above-described black-and-white videos, this time, however, installed in a quite complex installation, as well as several small-scale monochrome paintings and photographs.
The video is projected in two channels right at the corner between two walls of the gallery, symmetrically, and slightly de-synchronized in a way that it builds up in the viewer’s memory. Due to the reflecting chrome painting covering the walls, light seems caught in a maze of geometric shapes and mirroring surfaces, like in a kaleidoscope. In all Quistrebert’s works light does not reveal the real but actually endows reality with a magical aspect, suggesting to the viewer the possibility of entering into an different state of consciousness.
The show on display at Car Project, poetically titled “The Furthest Point”, speaks to the artists’ attitude toward aesthetic research, conceived as a continuous, never-ending process of experimentation and discovery. Of course, occult references are everywhere, if you look for them, but Quistrebert’s artworks are also striking by virtue of their simple beauty. The artists are interested in working with different mediums. Also present is a new series of photographs representing objects, chains, gems and necklaces, pinned to canvases and assembled in geometrical forms. While playing ironically upon the hyper realistic nature of photography, with a ‘60s taste for saturated colors and with kitsch symbols of wealth and beauty, the artists demonstrate here their ability to use images beyond their function of mere representation. As if they were talismans, these photos are mysteriously charged with the power of the objects represented.
Finally, the rigorously composed paintings are created by bleaching black canvases. Images, once again pure abstract forms– triangles, squares, spheres, pyramids– appear almost through a photographic process, but reversed, from dark to light. Lionel Feininger’s famous wood-cut print Cathedral of Socialism (1919), used as cover of the manifest of Bauhaus, representing the union of arts, could be recognized as a reference for some of these art-deco style works. But the brothers deeply question all utopian notions about art, and inspired by what they described as the “declining and depressive nature of modernism”, recognize first of all the subjectivity of every aesthetic experience.