Parisian artist Michel Verjux’s exhibit, “Breathe, Walk, Look” employs a confluence of space and memory to create a rather magical entry into gloriously lit spaces. Depending upon the configuration of these diverse pieces they operate as metaphors for climbing, portals and liminal or transitional spaces. Verjux deploys high-lumen architectural lights and fixtures amassed from the Contemporary’s storage area to create marvelously dreamy images on the gallery walls.
“Tableau (découpe d’escalier)” is a spectacular example. It’s a truncated metal stairwell turned on its side. Its look, its shape, is as varied as the places in which you opt to stand. It morphs. But throughout the experience you remain cognizant it’s a truncated stairwell and enjoys all the attendant symbolic ramifications. Stairs, of course, intimate verticality but, in this case, they’re lopped off and made to operate with a lateral vector instead of an ascending one. Metaphor is rife here in extraordinary ways. We’re made to examine how we inhabit space, how it’s redacted over time and how an “inside” operates vis-à-vis an “outside.” And while all this can become rather heady, it’s also possible to simply relax and enjoy the loveliness of shadows on walls and ponder the astonishing hold passages and portals have on our imagination. In fact, the entire show is a ritual of sorts. It ushers us from the quotidian space of the parking lot and lobby and into the mysterium we co-create with Verjux as we view his work. Another piece, “Tableau (découpe de fenêtre)” invites us to ponder the significance of windows and makes a very sophisticated exploration of sight something to enjoy. We can opt to either stand in a fixed place or roam about and peer through a window into a “beyond,” into a new terrain. And, in this case, we also witness a mildly smudged backlash of sorts reflected on an opposite wall. It’s a soulful reminder of how we dwell in rooms and the refractory nature of our lives. While it doesn’t answer all our questions, it pulls us forward as surely as a thread attached mid-sternum.
While we always see things in a manner informed by what Michel Foucault would have referred to as “signs” and “signified,” some art pieces place us firmly in the midst of well-defined epistemological considerations. And Verjux does exactly that. Or, put another way, it’s a contemporary version of Marcel Proust’s magic lantern. In fact, this all could make one wonder what’s up with the French, their projected images and their penchant for thinking about thinking. But no worries. If conversations in a coffee house on the Rue Dauphine are momentarily out of reach, opt for The Contemporary. It’s all very French and very lovely.