Javier Vallhonrat, Acaso 2000-2002 (Untitled #78), C-Print mounted on aluminium and matt plexi, 50,5 x 90,5 cm
For more than a decade now, L.A. Galerie has been showing works by the Spanish artist Javier Vallhonrat on a regular basis. Vallhonrat's new series, Acaso, shares the characteristic atmosphere of his earlier exhibitions. For one thing, he seems to be attracted to dawn, dusk and darkness rather than daylight. Also, a lot of his pictures depict actions or formations that carry meaning and logic only within their own frameworks.
Most of the photographs shown at L.A. Galerie portray lone male protagonists performing difficult tasks. One makes his way through shallow, reflective water on his hands and knees with the help of pieces of wood. Another one stares into a puddle on the concrete like Narcissus as he is balancing on two wooden square blocks. A third one, lying on a rectangular plank, lifts up another board with the apparent aim of bringing it into parallel position to the one below him. These are cumbersome and at the same time pointless activities which, viewed from the outside, do not make a lot of sense. Yet self-contained and lost to the world as they are, these tasks are performed and presented with emphatic expression. The protagonists are highly concentrated; it looks like the photographer tried to capture them as exactly as possible, in spite of sometimes difficult lighting conditions. Any attempt to connect with the viewer is strikingly missing.
One reason why the Acaso series seems alienating is that it cannot be subsumed to any definite category or genre. Although the pictures show action, time seems to stand still. Carefully composed with cool grey, green and blue shades, one is reminded of still life. Competing with this impression, however, is the often panoramic view of the surrounding landscapes. Just as well, the photographs could all be documents of some mysterious experiment.
On the one hand, the cinematographic format of the images links them to film stills. But on the other hand, many elements pertain to the art of painting: the accurate compositions with axes leading deep into the pictures, carefully placed lights and shadows, reflections, and frozen movements.
While each of the pictures can be viewed separately and forms an entity in itself, one does sense a bond between the individual images that goes beyond formal characteristics. There are thematic links as well. Geometric forms contrast with organic ones; in two pictures a rectangular solid confines the protagonist; in another one a wild shrub is surrounded by strings that are tightened into rectangular format. Surfaces--natural, raw surfaces and smooth, processed ones--form the subject of a number of other works. In some scenes, the protagonist laboriously fights his way towards "the inside"--from one cavernous space to the next, deep into the woods, or into a stretch of shallow, muddy water. The Acaso series seems to document serious games, yet the rules of the games remain unknown to us.
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